"Planet of the Apes," "Beneath the Planet of the Apes," "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" and "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" would all be shown in their entirety at the Garden Theater. So many apes and escapes, and I couldn't tell you the plot lines of any of them.
It didn't matter—it was a movie-marathon and it wasn't supposed to be a walk in the park. When you purchased your ticket, you made a commitment to put in the hours and stick it out, even when your butt went numb and the primate images on the screen started to blur together.
I was 11 years old and up for the challenge.
Since it was a marathon, I had all the supplies I needed to succeed: an icy Coke, popcorn, Raisinettes and a stash of extra candy in case of a sweet-tooth emergency.
My friend Karen Hollingsworth was there with me. She was nice and liked movies, which was all that mattered to me. When you're attempting to accomplish something major like watching four movies in one sitting, it's always a good idea to have a partner in crime.
It was a pretty good marathon as movie marathons go. The Beatles movies marathon was better and the Billy Jack marathon was worse, as you can only beat up so many people without your shoes before things get tedious. Who knew that going to these all-day marathons would help train me to become the Olympic-quality, Netflix series binge-watcher I am today? Watch the whole season of "Stranger Things" in a weekend? No problemo.
A big giveaway was scheduled for later in the day and the prize that everybody coveted was a brand-new bicycle. Although I already had a blue Stingray, I pictured how fantastic it would be if I won a new boy's (and it had to be a boy's) 10-speed bike. I was starting junior high in the fall and everyone would for sure think I was super cool.
After the third movie's credits had finished scrolling, a man came onto the stage and stood in front of the screen. He may have been from a local radio station, but he wasn't anyone I knew. As he pulled out a ticket from the fishbowl, I rearranged my snacks so that I could hold my ticket in my hand and read along as he said each number, "188.8.131.52.4.2."
I could see that my numbers matched his numbers perfectly ... and OMG! I had the winning ticket!
Careful not to spill anything, I jumped out of my seat and ran down the aisle onto the stage, screaming all the way as if I was the next contestant on "The Price Is Right."
I WAS THE WINNER!
Someone wheeled the bike out from behind the curtain and the moment I saw it, my face fell. I felt as if I had been sucker-punched. The bike was barely a bike; it was whatever is between a tricycle and a 10-speed. It practically had training wheels on it and there was no way that I'd ever want to be seen riding such a crappy thing.
"How do you feel about winning this fantastic bike, little lady?" the host asked as he thrust the microphone in my face.
"It feels great," I said, lying through my teeth. "But I'm not keeping it. I'm going to give it to my friend, Karen Hollingsworth!
"Because," I paused, "she doesn't have a bike and I do."
Everyone was kind of stunned so it took them a moment to understand what was happening. It was as if I was turning down an Academy Award or had rejected one of those oversized-cardboard checks from the Publishers' Clearing House.
But once the initial shock wore off, the audience began clapping harder and harder, and I remember seeing tears on a few people's faces.
I was giving my prize away. I was such a good person.
"Karen, could you come up here with me?" I said, completely hijacking the show and motioning for my friend to join me up on stage. As Karen made her way down the aisle, I improvised some stage banter.
"I've never won anything before in my entire life!" I said. I could see that the crowd was eating it up.
When she got on stage, I rolled the bike over to Karen, who continued to stand there with a confused look on her face. I told her to grab one of the rainbow-streamer handlebars and we walked off the stage, back down the aisle with the bike between us, to thunderous applause.
By the time school started up, my big win and act of charity had been forgotten. I guess Dr. Zaius, in the original "Planet of the Apes," said it best:
"Don't look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find."
A month later, Karen moved back to Texas. I was OK with her taking the bike because there was a James Bond movie marathon that weekend and I was on a winning streak.