Once settled in the HIAS dormitory, I immediately began investigating my new environment, and that meant walking around the neighborhood. It wasn’t long before I found myself at the corner of 2nd Avenue and St. Marks Place, right across the street from Rappaport’s, the dairy restaurant whose only competition was Ratner’s on Delancey Street. But I wasn’t interested in Rappaport’s, indeed, I hardly noticed it. What attracted my attention were the fruit stands and their apples, great, big pyramids of them, and the movie theater, the Orpheum, (which still stands) across the street. The apples were red, green, and delicious looking, and cost very little. The Orpheum’s marquee advertised two movies, a double bill, instead of the measly single movies that played in the movie theaters of Brussels that I immediately learned to despise. Not only did it advertise two feature length films, but it also offered several short subjects. The two features were “The Three Musketeers,” with Gene Kelly and Lana Turner, and “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” starring Humphrey Bogart. I immediately made plans for the following day.
I asked my mother for some money to go to the movies, and she gave it to me, although she didn’t have much. I think it was all of 75 cents. I could hardly wait for 12 o’clock, when the Orpheum opened. On the way, 25 cents bought me a great big bag of Mc Intosh apples, which I figured would relieve hunger pangs while I was watching the movies. So, I paid my 50 cents, got my ticket, handed it to the usher, walked up to the balcony, took a seat and waited for the show to begin.
Is there anyone who has not seen “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”? It was wonderful, and has become a classic. The Gene Kelly swashbuckler was not of the same quality, but was still riveting for a thirteen-year-old boy. I watched the double bill once, I watched it twice, I was watching it for the third time, when an usher, flashlight in hand, my mother behind her, tapped me on the shoulder. It was now midnight, and I had been watching these two films for twelve hours straight! I couldn’t speak English, so I don’t know how much of what was going on on-screen I really understood, but I had been completely mesmerized. I had loved every moment of it.
My mother, on the other hand, was terrified. I had not only gone to the movies, but I had disappeared in a strange land. Because I couldn’t speak English, she was worried about what could have happened to me. I could just have gotten lost. When she found me in the balcony of the Orpheum at midnight, after I had left HIAS at about 11:30 AM, she was happy to find me safe, but she was also furious, although I couldn’t quite figure out why. I had just spent one of the happiest days of my life. What was her problem? As I mentioned before, it wasn’t always easy being my mother.