The Inspector

Note to the reader: It has been brought to my attention by my website editor (not to be confused with my newspaper editor who is far too classy and intelligent a guy to get involved with this website) that a lot of the stuff I’ve been turning out in recent months reads suspiciously like the senile ramblings of a used-up old fart who probably peaked-out sometime in the late 80s.

As you might expect my poor, tender little feelings were hurt.

I choose to believe he means well—he certainly has nothing to gain by depressing the hell out of me—well—there was the matter of that $500,000 life insurance policy.

I’m probably just being paranoid…

But then—there were those comments about always being in the way, taking up far too much space in this community and breathing more than my fair share of air…

In any event—I thought I’d share some thoughts about today’s image then segway into the usual brilliant chain of associations. I’ll let you decide if these remarks are the ravings of a blathering old curmudgeon or sparkling words of inspired wisdom.

This image was shot on the Downtown Mall. As those of you who regularly visit this site know, the Mall is where most of my stuff comes from these days. The woman in the shot is a waitress (excuse me—wait person or waiter) who is setting up outdoor tables in front of a restaurant. The silhouette is one of a number of plywood cut-out figures that are scattered around the mall for whimsical ambience I guess. There are others—a woman holding a baby, a child waving an ice cream cone, the sinking of the Spanish Armada in 1599…

I googled “The Inspector” and was pleasantly reminded of a cute cartoon character popular in the 60s—here’s an excerpt from the article:

The Inspector is a series of 1960s theatrical cartoons produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises and released through United Artists.

Although the titular character was never given a name, in contrast to Inspector Clouseau, the cartoon character was generally competent. The cartoons’ humor came from the sometimes surreal villains and situations the Inspector was exposed to, with a healthy dose of stylized cartoon slapstick. Through these difficult circumstances, criminals often get the better of him and he must face the wrath of his ill-tempered, bullying Commissioner…

Here’s the link if you want to read the rest:

This series was first shown in theaters before the main feature film. I had forgotten you could still see cartoons before a film as late as the ‘60s. Are cartoons routinely shown before feature films anymore? If someone out there can clarify that please email me—if I’m not too senile on that day I might figure out how to open and read it.

No doubt you old-timers can remember, as can I, going to the movies on Saturday mornings. The cost of admission was 25 cents for adults, 15 cents for kids. Typically there were at least 4 cartoons, a newsreel and two—full-length movies. And if you liked you could stay and watch everything over and over as many times as you like.

Back in the ‘50s, when my siblings and I were growing up in upstate NY my mom worked at a store in downtown Rome called W. T. Grants. Again—you old-timers probably remember the Grants stores. They were low-end department stores—their biggest competition was Kresge’s which later morphed into K-Mart. The W. T. Grant chain started in Massachusetts in 1906 and by 1972 there were over 1200 stores across the U.S. The company went bankrupt in 1976 for a variety of reasons but one was the extention of credit to customers without the slightest check to find out if they were capable of paying back what they owed—sound familiar?

Sorry for the digression—you know how it is with old people.

Anyway my mom worked at Grants and on Saturday mornings my brother, sister and I would walk downtown—it was probably 2 or 3 miles—to the Grants store. My mom would give us a dollar and we’d walk up the street to the Strand Theater. The Strand was the cheap theater—it showed movies that had been out for quite a while—never any new relelases. The Capitol Theater several blocks down the main street was the big, posh, fancy theater with thick red carpeting in the ornate, gilded lobby that showed movies which had just been released. And your feet didn’t stick to the floor.

We couldn’t afford the Capitol. It’s really just as well–everybody down at the Strand knew the people who went there were a bunch of self-impressed, stuck-up muckity-mucks who had more money than common sense and just weren’t decent folks. They probably did—you know–bad stuff–more on that in a minute.

Down the street at the sticky floor theater my siblings and I would proudly, excitedly scamper in waving our dollar bill and move in for the next 6 or 7 hours.

With that buck we got admission and a candy item each at the concession stand. We’d usually watch the two features plus cartoons, shorts (like a newsreel) trailers and coming attractions twice through—and maybe one of the movies a third time if it was a good flick. If the movie got boring it was always fun feeding the rats and mice running around under the seats eating the popcorn people spilled.

I don’t know why but my sister (6 years younger than me) after about age 9 or 10—insisted on sitting by herself down close to the screen. It occurs to me all these years later, she was the first of a number of girls during my high school years, who had no interest in going to a movie with me (hey—it was their loss!)

After 6 hours or so we’d walk back down the street to the store and my mom would have us wait in the employee break room in the back of the store until she finished her shift. I remember there was a big vinyl covered couch, a device for holding the old pull-down, roller shades so they could be sawed to a custom length and there was always a bunch of those old “True Confession/True Romance/True Story ” magazines aimed at young women.

I remember one story I read while waiting for mom to get off work about a young bride and her husband who go to the husband’s boss’s house for dinner and drinks—a lot of drinks. Everybody gets snockered and the husbands swap wives. I seem to remember it was the boss’s idea—but under the influence of alcohol and impressed by the big, high-class house with the plush red carpeting in the lobby, the young couple concur. The boss was an older man of course but a real hunk—looking a lot like Cary Grant in his 50s—and his wife looked like Sandra Dee in her late 20s.

The next morning the young wife—who was telling the story—was racked with shame and very unhappy (probably the hang-over didn’t help.) I seem to remember the husband– on the other hand—thought it was a pretty fair swap  (just making that part up :-) .

To cut to the chase, the marriage goes completely to hell, replete with at least one suicidal gesture by the remorseful young wife. Finally the young couple end up going to church, getting some (what would today be called Pastoral) counseling and it all works out just fine. I think the evil boss and his slutty wife got their come-uppance—dieing in a freak backgammon accident (sorry—couldn’t help myself :-)   No–it was a small plane crash—really—I think.

It’s a morality tale as you will no doubt remember from those high school classes in 17th Century Allegorical Literary Constructs. But to a 12 year old kid sitting there behind the roller-shade-cutter-thing waiting for his mom it just served to reinforce all those true-blue, all-American working class values we learned at the Strand. The evil Cary Grant boss and his slutty Sandra Dee wife were no doubt the type of people who went to the Capitol whenever they liked–you know–when they weren’t corrupting innocent, clean-cut young couples who conversely went to the Strand.

So the lesson is pretty clear.  People who think they’re too good for sticky floors and don’t have time to feed good old, All-American pop-corn eating rats always come to a bad end.

There—that’s my post for today. Now—you decide if I’m in the final stages of accelerated cognitive decline or just way ahead of my time. Email your thoughts to this website via the “comments” thing at the bottom of this post. If I get some rational and coherent letters I’ll post a few.

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