The Day I Saved the President

I watched a rerun of a Sinatra concert recently and was reminded of a time back in the forties when I saw a young, scrawny Frank perform on stage with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra. I’m sure no one in that audience realized that they were being entertained by a future legend. Certainly I, a mere kid, didn’t.

That memorable day began with a streetcar ride to a downtown theater where we were to see not only a stage show, but a movie as well. I don’t remember what the occasion was that prompted Bubbie to take me and my uncle, but it certainly had to have been a special one.

The theater itself was a sight to behold! Red and gold velvet draperies hung from the highest ceiling I had ever seen. The thickly upholstered seats were cushy, but the rough material scratched my bare legs. Unlike our neighborhood movie house, there were box seats on either side of the stage, one of which, I was certain, was reserved for the president of the United States. I had just learned about how Lincoln had been shot at a theater, and I visualized a scene in which I single handedly thwarted the would be assassin of President Roosevelt who sat in one of those elegantly decorated boxes.

Since we had arrived an hour before the show was to begin, I had a chance to ogle the people sitting nearby. Many, I noticed, ate sandwiches and fruit which they pulled from brown paper bags. I asked Bubbie why they were eating lunch in a theater, and she told me that they were probably staying for two or three shows. I silently wished that we had brought food so we could do the same.

Some things we never forget. For me, being in that magical place, listening to live music, and seeing a movie all in one afternoon was indelibly etched in my brain. I don’t remember the name of the movie, but, in my mind’s eye, I can still see that exquisite red and gold theater and President Roosevelt sitting high up in a box seat just waiting to be saved by me.

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