One summer, my home town's local movie theater got the bright idea to run a series of kids-only matinees. As far as I remember, it was the only summer that they did this. Looking back, it's one of those ideas that was probably a lot better on the drawing board than in execution.

The LaMar Theater was a real, old-school, small-town movie palace. Just a block from the ocean in Manhattan Beach, California -- hence the compounded Spanish for "the sea" -- with thick, red velvet curtains and a big screen above a raised stage. There was a ceiling mural that featured dolphins arcing above curling waves, and big plaster sea shells served as covers for the sconces that lit the walls.

In the 1940's my grandmother was manager of the LaMar for a time, and I have photos of her posing with movie stars and USO workers, doing publicity when the theater hosted special shows to benefit the war effort. My mother worked at the theater as a barely legal usher, and told me that during one of these drives she shot craps backstage with Donald O'Connor and some of the musicians. Sadly, the theater is now gone, torn down in the 1980s to make room for a McDonalds and a multiplex.

The summer of the children's matinee fiasco, I was maybe ten or eleven years old. I loved movies -- Mom, the former movie usher, reared me with daily viewings of Ben Hunter's Movie Matinee on KTTV, watching old black-and-white films from the 40's and 50's while she did laundry. Every day he'd run a contest called "Hunter's College of Obscure Knowledge," showing a photo or clip and asking a trivia question, and awarding a prize to the first caller with the correct answer. My mother never called the show, but she got every question right.