On Saturday mornings when I was a little kid, my mom would pop corn in our home popper, bag it up in a brown bag, and drop me off with a little money at the local movie theater with all the other kids in town. This was back in the day when, for probably fifty cents, you could hang out from about 9:00 to noon and watch a ton of cartoons and a feature film. The theater only had one screen and probably sat about 500 people. Those Saturday mornings with my home-popped corn and maybe some Good-n-Plenty or Jujyfruits were my introduction to the wonderful world of movies. So it was a no-brainer a decade or so later when I was offered my first job at that very same movie theater.
I was 16 and wanted to go on the high school trip to Mexico that spring break, so my mom said I needed to get a job and earn half the money, and then she’d kick in the rest. I started telling people I was looking. My boyfriend’s sister worked at the theater and asked me if I wanted to work in the concession stand. Hells yes, I did! So I went for the interview, got the job, and became a popcorn slinger.
By that point, the theater had been converted to a two-plex, but it still smelled the same as it had my whole life. The difference now was that I would go home smelling like it too! I learned how to run the big popper, how to “up sell” drinks and candy, how to clean the hot cheese warmer, and why you don’t ever want to eat the “butter flavoring” on your popcorn. It was tons of fun to work a busy shift and see friends from school, and maybe sneak them a free drink refill halfway through the movie. It was fun to re-stock the candy in the cases between shows, and make friends with my co-workers, many of whom were kids from neighboring high schools.
Eventually, they moved me into the box office, which was removed from the hustle and bustle of the concessions, but it suited me not to have to do dishes at the end of the night and not go home with popcorn oil, nacho cheese, or butter flavoring all over me. My black polyester stayed CLEAN in the box office. I enjoyed handling the money and punching the tickets out of the old-school dispenser. It was fun to see how fast I could move a line and how accurate I could be with the money.
I made some amazing friends over the years at that job and ended up working at multiple theaters within that company. I got to see a ton of free movies and ate my weight in free popcorn. Honestly, as I sit here and type, dozens of stories from working there are coming back to me, and I could probably write a whole book about it. I know for certain my love of films comes from those years selling SnoCaps and tickets.
Paychecks, movies, friends, and memories: you can’t ask for much more from a first job. I’m glad this one was mine.