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Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Wednesday Night at the Dante

By Nancy Leitz

Our family moved to South Philadelphia in 1947. Mother, Dad, sister Jed and myself. I was already going out with Roy and he lived in Darby. They opened the Penrose Ferry Bridge and that made his trip to see me much easier. He came and took the whole family for a ride over the new bridge shortly after it opened. We didn't have television in those days so bridge openings came right to the top in entertainment.

Roy had a brand new 1948 Nash that he had waited years for and he loved to drive it everywhere. So we all piled into the Nash and drove across the bridge a couple of times.

I was 19 years old and Jed was 13. She was the errand runner when we needed something from the store or anything picked up. She knew the neighborhood like a book and could be depended on to do the job, IF she felt like it!

Once, it was about 90 degrees and, of course, we didn't have air conditioning either, so we asked Jed to go to Nap's store on the corner at Dickinson and Carlisle and get us some ice cream. Well, the usually dependable Jed didn't come back and didn't come back and we wondered where she could be.

I went into the front bedroom to look out the window to search for her and there on the bed was the ice cream! Melting to nothing. We were furious and she didn't return for an hour and then got very indignant that we would be angry just because she let a little ice cream melt all over the bed.

And the butter. She liked the butter to spread easily so refused to refrigerate it no matter how hot it was. She came home one time and looked for the butter on the table and it wasn't there. Where could it be? Oh, the refrigerator. She opened the door of the fridge and there it was. She was Wild! "What slob put the butter in the refrigerator?"

This brings us to the evening we asked her how much it cost to go to the Dante Movie at Broad and Federal Streets. We were always on a tight budget and so it was important to know how much things would cost. We never asked what picture was playing. That didn't matter. We went to the movies as often as we could and the name of the picture was the least of it.

We loved every picture we ever saw. Except one. Carnival In Costa Rico was the only movie out of hundreds that we actually walked out on. So, we asked Jed how much the Dante costs. She thought a minute then said, "Well, it's Wednesday night and it's a first run picture. They will also show a John Nesbitt's Passing Parade, there will be a Movietone News and two cartoons, maybe a March of Time and best of all, it's DISH NIGHT, so it's gonna cost you 25 cents."

The Dante was definitely worth 25 cents. The man would sell you your ticket, walk to the entrance and part a heavy maroon drape, allowing you to enter. As he tore your ticket in half and gave you the stub, he also grabbed his flashlight and led you down the aisle to any seat you chose. After you had chosen your seat he would hand you the dish of the night. Usually a large platter at a first run film.

Now I have to tell you about the seats in the Dante. They were supposed to be very comfortable. The designer had shaped them like a person's rear end. You know, wooden and curved like in school. The only trouble was, they were curved the wrong way! You could only sit comfortably for about 10 minutes then your backside was aching.

So, while you were watching the movie, as you looked forward at the screen, everybody was squirming and moving around to try to get comfortable. Every so often someone would lean forward to try to get the seat out of their backside you would hear SMASH and a huge platter would fall to the concrete floor and break into a thousand pieces.

That was just too bad. No replacements. Your tough luck, as they said in South Philly.

One night my Mother, Jed and I went to see Boston Blackie at the Dante. Blackie was trying to outwit the crooks, as usual, and had to hide a sack of diamonds. Just as he hid them, I dropped my teacup (Boston Blackie was not a first-run movie) and lost sight of the screen for a minute, but I didn't miss Blackie putting the diamonds in his shoe. I saw that all right, but mother thought I had missed it.

As Blackie LIMPED into his place, my mother leaned over to me and in her loudest voice said, "See, the diamonds are in the shoe." That was more than 60 years ago and to this day, if someone in our family points out the obvious to the rest of us, we all scream with laughter and shout, "Yes, and the diamonds are in the shoe."

I have lots of happy memories of South Philadelphia and especially the Dante.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Lovely story nancy. I am sure you have a story for every day of the year. Keep them coming.

Nancy, you should write a book! This is a great story. I have one about the movies when I was a kid - my mom won some money, but she was asleep. I woke her up so she could claim the ticket!

Fun story. My sister, Barrie, and I loved to go to the movies too, especially on Saturday when we could see the serial with the heroic Brick and Sandy Bradford. We never checked the time for when a movie started. We just went, saw the movie until the end, and then watched to where we had come in. As far as I know, that's what everyone did.

Hi Sharry, Judy and Grannymar,

Thanks for your nice comments.

Let me tell you about Jed. She left for New York right after graduating from High School and got an entry level job at a famous magazine.
The Administrative Assistant to the publisher married and got pregnant. That's how they did it in 1952.

Well, the AA wanted to return after the baby was born and wanted someone to hold her job for her. She picked Jed because she was the lowest person on the totem pole and was the least threat to the woman who wanted to return.She knew she would get her job back from a lowly secretary..

Except that she gave Jed the job and NEVER returned.. So, my sister was the assistant to the publisher of a famous magazine for more than 30 years. She was sensational at her job and married the VP of a well known Advertising agency.

They lived on Central Park West looking out over Central Park and The Tavern on The Green. They separated a few years ago but remain friends. Jed still lives in the same place.

We still have fun talking about the old days and the nights we went to the Dante. And we still say, "The diamonds are in the shoe."

I didn't get a chance to come by yesterday Nancy....glad I did today. Another great story from you....I so enjoy them my friend...

What a great story. Did you have a balcony? I loved the hight and the adventure of the balconies.


Not only did the Dante have a balcony,you could SMOKE up there!

When you entered the balcony area you had to cut through the smoke with a machete. But guess what? They had different seats up there that were actually comfortable so lots of us would prefer the smoke to have our backside ache for two days.

The balcony was always crowded....

Hello Joy,

I know you had your birthday yesterday. I hope it was a very Happy one.

Thanks for your nice words.....

Great story, it's funny what stays with family when we live our lives together. We always refer to our mom as the clorox queen as she had us use it for everything including the baths we took..one cupful in bath water.

Really enjoyed reading this as it brought back my moms memories as well. Looking forward to more.

Dorothy from grammology
remember to call gram

Hello Dorothy,

Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

Now, how is your health? We were thinking of you. I first met you at Grannymars when you mentioned not being well. Hope you are doing better now....

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