17 May 2019

[Ellis "Da" Millsaps] - Go Down Moses

*What follows is Da's fourth installment of his Memoirs, "Son of a Preacher Man: a Rock & Roll Cowboy Grows Up Southern Baptist"

Chapter 4: Go Down Moses

Somewhat contemporaneously with television entering my life, movies made their appearance.

The first movie I ever saw was ‘ Tammy.’ My sister Wylene took me with her then boyfriend to the theater in Cartersville. I can still remember the opening credits and the song. Wylene named her first child Tammy.

The second was again with Wylene and boyfriend. I remember it had teenagers driving fast cars and didn't  interest me. We had to leave early because I said the popcorn hurt my toes. I later realized my foot is had gone to sleep, something I hadn't experienced before.

My mother and my oldest sister Joyce would take me and Joyce's children, David and Denise, who were only  one and two years respectively younger than I to the drive-in. I only remember two films,’ Old Yeller,’ for which I have never forgiven them, and ’Imitation of Life,’ an odd choice since we were eight, seven and six years old. it starred Lana Turner and  Sandra Dee and explored the then racy subject of the light skinned daughter of a black woman passing as white. Think maybe they wanted to see that one themselves?

Around this time they took us to see’ Gone with the Wind’ at the Cartersville theater.Back then, long before it first was shown on television In two parts in 1976, MGM would re-release it to theaters every few years. The last thing I remember was Scarlett biting the dirt covered turnip and saying” As God is my witness…” I think David and Denise were already asleep.

My mother sans Joyce took me to see two films at the theater,’ The Ten Commandments’ and’ ‘Ben-Hur’. In the 1950s movies  didn't open at a theater near you. First they came out in the big markets and then it could be months before they made it out to the sticks.

So in 1956, when I was four years old, my mother drove me the 40 miles from Cartersville to The Fabulous Fox to see’ The Ten Commandments.’ I knew the story well already, knew all the plagues, including the frogs and the locusts they were leaving out to keep the movie under four hours. I followed the entire epic with rapt attention. Cecil B DeMille made the Red Sea part. I saw it right there on the big screen.( Maybe Jonah did live in the belly of a whale.)

A few years later she took me to see’ Ben-Hur’ at the Roxy. I loved that chariot race.

The networks always show The Ten Commandments’ at Easter, somewhat odd since Jesus doesn't figure in the story. (He does make a cameo in Ben Hur.) I tried to watch The Ten Commandments this year. I watched it until I got through the Red Sea. It had commercials. Two hours was all I could take.

Buy at my original viewing I was impressed with how the movies,at least the ones my mother took me to see,ran in opposition to TV fare, reinforcing my church life.

When I was twelve or so Mama and Joyce would drop David and me off at the Cartersville theater when it opened on Saturday and leave us there till suppertime.We’d watch’ From  Russia with Love’ , ‘Dr.. No’ and then ‘From Russia with Love’ again. We learned a lot there that we didn't get in church...

Ellis "Da" Millsaps is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved...