Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 17th


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A hot movie during a cold Winter….for FREE!

“Tarzan”, icicles and John Deere tractors seem to be an incongruous teaming that brings Christmas memories, and yet to me, they go hand in glove to induce me to smiles and travels back into the sweetness of Christmas childhood.

In my boyhood days on our farm, my weekly bank account (alias spending allowance) grew by a mere 25 cents.  One quarter of a dollar, and that rotund (speaking “tongue in cheek”) sum was usually expended each and every Saturday evening when our family drove into Kiester for the Lucky Bucks Drawing and general family shopping.  Needless to say, I was NOT in possession of monetary means to be able to afford to see a movie on my limited income of just 25 pennies lined up in a row.

#977 Arnold Baumann
Our much loved “KEE Theater” owner, Mr. Arnold Bauman

To my Christmas financial rescue, and that of hundreds of other children in our village, came a very well-liked man, by the name of Mr. Arnold Bauman, who owned and operated the local movie theater in our sweet hamlet.  Arnold teamed up with the Sime family (and others) who ran the local John Deere tractor dealership, to bring a FREE Christmas movie and treats to local children every year in our fine rural community.

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Children line up for the FREE Christmas movie in the years before Elliott came into the world.  Once of age, Elliott cherished the chance to enjoy those yuletide movies also.

The venue for this wondrous event was the one and only KEE Movie Theater located at the north end of our small town’s Main Street.  Opening in 1940, this magic arena for imagination and entertainment over the decades brought countless thousands of young and old the opportunity to step into its elegant chambers and be transported to whatever world of adventure one chose to enjoy.

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Movie tickets were FREE on that grand day!

From the second you stepped into the lobby, you were greeted with the heady fragrance of scrumptious popcorn being brought to perfection as it called to your senses. Your happy eyes saw each kernel jumping for joy at your presence as it ricocheted from hot popper to glass wall and back into the golden-lamped holding bin awaiting the scoop to fill your bag.

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Elliott felt like a king with his FREE movie and a bag of popcorn.  Bring on the Christmas FUN!

Thanks to Mr. Bauman, the Sime family and other generous folks, this dollar-challenged farm boy is now perusing the movie theater aisles, in my “kalumping” Winter boots, as I sought the best seat to settle into and prepare for our kids Christmas movie to begin.  As was the norm, for Minnesota Christmas times, there was usually a snowstorm blowing outside of these cozy walls with frigid temperatures down in the 20’s or colder.

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Arnold’s projectors are ready to roll film, cartoons and John Deere tractor commercials.

The colored, side accent lights on the walls of the auditorium gently began to fade as we kids noticed the tall, elegant red velvet curtains make their swishing sound as they pleated themselves into the fully open position.  Above our heads, Mr. Bauman’s giant film projectors fired up to life and flickering images became clear on the massive movie screen as John Deere tractor commercials began to parlay the advantages of owning this fine farming implement for your very own.

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Even though the Noorluns used Farmall tractors on their farm, Elliott loved the putt, putt sound of a John Deere tractor.   John Deeres were sometimes called a Johnny Poppers.

The John Deere advertisement is now over and on comes the cartoons for everyone’s giggle muscles to be exercised!!   This young audience made the sound of happy popcorn munching all around me as the last cartoon ended and it was now time for the main feature film to begin.  BOY OH BOY!!

I, for one, was intrigued by the various choices of film subjects each year.  The Tarzan movies were my favorites because here we were, bundled up against the frozen temperatures that awaited us outside of the movie theater, and there, on the screen were actors in a hot, humid jungle getting all sweaty in the sunshine of far away Africa.

#978 Lawrence Haase
Dear Mr. Lawrence Haase….a volunteer “Santa”

Having enjoyed every single minute of our FREE Christmas movie, it was now time to file out of the KEE Theater and out the front doors to meet the cold snap of Winter once again.  What happened next was the treasured time of “dessert” after the “meal” of the movie in the form of a FREE bag of ribbon candies and peanuts handed out by none other than Santa, himself.  Kind-hearted men of our town would volunteer each year to put on the Santa suit and be waiting outside the theater for us kids.  True to form, there was this year’s “Santa” and he had in front of him a big, dark red velvet bag of gifts for each boy and girl that had been in attendance at the movie.  Inside its velvety redness, Santa’s bag contained small paper bags that had been stuffed with goodies and taped shut.  Inside those little paper bags were beautiful old-fashioned ribbon candy, jelly-filled candy and other assorted confections that were intermingled with loose, roasted peanuts still in their salty shells.  Santa handed one bag to each little darling that passed him on their way to re-unite with parents waiting outside the theater.  One year, the ill-fitting Santa suit easily revealed the features of a dear local farmer, Mr. Lawrence Haase.  Sweet Mr. Haase, that dear soul, was a thin-framed man, so he was, in a sense, “swimming” in the over-sized Santa suit.  Besides, with his glasses on, and his snow white forehead above a sun-tanned face, it was easy to recognize him as being very different from the traditional “man from the North Pole”.  With grateful heart, I gladly received his greeting of, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” as he handed me my little bag of Christmas treats in the frosty air of this beloved hometown of a happy little Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

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Elliott will always be grateful to the Sime family for helping fund this wonderful Christmas memory of his childhood days in Minnesota.

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