The True Cost of a 5 cent Root Beer Barrel

This post has nothing at all to do with Pop Tarts.  I just put the photo out on Instagram and Facebook so it was handy to use.  Pardon the deceptive lead-in but I had no photos of Root Beer Barrels to use.  I could have Googled for one, but it’s nearly dinner time…and my time is valuable.

In the distant years of my past life, back in 1956 for instance, I would pay 25 cents for a ticket to the matinée at the Tioga Theater in Owego, NY.  This stopped a year or two later when my mother (bless her heart) enrolled me in piano lessons that began at 2:00 pm…just down Main Street from the theater…where all my friends were about to enjoy a Hopalong Cassidy triple feature and at least a dozen Disney cartoons.

But, when I went to the matinée, my favorite treat was a 5 cent box of Root Beer Barrels.  You can still buy these…I think.

Those little brown nuggets of sugar and flavor were pure ambrosia to me.

Until I started to go to the dentist, Dr. Lee, whose office was about halfway from St. Patrick’s School (where I was in elementary school) to what was then Harvey’s Grocery Store (later to become Craig Phelps’ super popular “Everybody’s Country Store”).

Well, to make a very long story a little shorter, I started getting childhood cavities (I’m not sure they flouridated the water then.)

Dr. Lee didn’t believe in Novocaine.  I suffered the typical pains of a child of the 50’s in the dentist chair.

So, recently, I had two extractions at Mount Sinai Hospital here in NYC.  I began to reflect how many times I had those original cavities filled and refilled.  It must have been quite a few because I’m still getting cavities redone…and I haven’t had a Root Beer Barrel in decades.

I would estimate that my dental care has cost me or my insurance company several thousand dollars to repair the damages caused by a 5 cent box of little hard candies.

I no longer eat hard candy…it might chip a tooth.  I’m going over to Godiva’s.

Can’t hurt at this point in my life.  But I miss those little chunks of cheap candy and the flavor bursts of Root Beer.

I might even try a Pop Tart.

Good-bye Blip

I will miss the blip.

The blip and I go back many, many years.  I saw the blip when I was very young but I didn’t know what it was back then.  Over the years, the blip took on a special significance when I would look for it in dark movie houses, from the next-to-last row of the balcony, where I was smooching with my childhood sweetheart.

Everyone reading this has seen the blip, everyone that is except those who have never been to a motion picture.  You won’t see it when you slip your next DVD from Netflix into your video player.  Those blips have been removed.  No, the blip was only to be seen and enjoyed by those who sat in the dark recesses of the Strand or the Rialto.  And, I would wager that a fair number of movie goers never took notice of the blip.

Now they’re out of luck.  They’re extinct like the Allosaurus.  They’re gone like the Edsel.  They’ve vanished like Judge Crater and Jimmy Hoffa.  The blips are washed away like our sins in the waters of the Jordan River.

What the hell, you might ask, is a blip?

Officially, they were known as “changer marks”.  When a movie was being shown in all the cinema houses across the country, there had to be a way to notify the projectionist the exact moment to start the other projector with the next reel.  Remember those flashes in the upper right corner of the screen?  Those were the blips.  They gave the person in the projection booth 11 seconds to prepare to start another reel…and it had to blend seamlessly.  The blip might be during a critical scene between lovers or a good-guy/bad-guy moment.

99.9 % of the time, the casual viewer never noticed the reel changes.

I can say with pride and distinction that I was present for that 0.1% mistake.  And, it almost caused a riot.

The place was in a revival house in Northampton, Massachusetts.  The time was the early 1980’s.  The movie?

It was ‘Casablanca’.  The one and only time I ever saw it on a big screen…in all it’s glory…the way it should be seen.  (You pick up on things that are lost on the small screen).  The scene?

Well, it had to be the most ‘classic’ movie moment, an iconic moment, a legendary moment.

Rick is sitting at the table with a half-empty bottle, a glass and a cigarette.

The reel ended just when he was to utter the line: “In all the bars…”

The projectionist must have been napping.  He or she missed the split-second moment and Bogey’s line was broken.

The crowd booed with gusto (I think some buttered popcorn was thrown).  Finally, the fans settled back and tempers eased.  But the magic cadence was gone.

If only the projectionist had used those 11 seconds to prepare for this…but, that’s life I guess.

Don’t look for the blip.  You won’t find it anymore now that almost all the theaters have been forced to go digital.  No need for the ‘changer mark’ now.  I would hope that revival houses would still show celluloid somewhere.  That’s your last and only hope for experiencing the blip.

Shakespeare wrote that “all the world’s a stage”.  A movie house has a stage of sorts.  So, if you are going to have changes in your life.  Watch for the blip.

And be ready for the next reel.

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