Roatan’s Beauty, Truth & Wisdom

By Davey McNab

Islanders have always loved their movies. In the 1970s, when I was growing up in French Harbour, going to the show on a Saturday night was an event. One of the movies that I remember seeing was “Jaws.

Hair brushed and parted, freshly bathed and wearing our best dress clothes, we walked to the West on the coral marl street talking excitedly about the night ahead. Polala joined us when we walked past his house, as Doc and Elo did at their houses farther down. By the time we reached Mr. Homer’s movie theater, which was next to the bridge connecting The Hill with French Harbour Point, Old Break had joined us and we had become a group of six or seven boys all under the age of ten. Each of us had his Lempira or two allowance for the evening secured in a front pocket.

There was already a crowd gathered in the street in front of what was the largest building in town. There were other boys and girls our age, teenage boys and girls flirting with one another while wary of their parents’ strict gazes. The kids from The Hill were selling pastels and enchiladas at a brisk pace. The ticket window opened on to the street and the line moved quickly. It was 75 Lempira cents for the upstairs seating area and 50 Lempira cents for the downstairs. When the kids from The Hill had finished selling their pastels and enchiladas, they got in line and bought tickets with the money they had made. At the same time, they were careful to secure the little profits to take home to their mothers after the show.

It was standing room only on Saturday night when “Jaws” was screened at Mr. Homer’s. The beam of light above the center aisle projected the New England beaches, Roy Schneider, Richard Dreyfuss and the killer Great White onto the screen.

There were teenage boys with their backs leaning against the projection room wall, Fiestas and glass bottles of Coca Colas and Tropicales in hand. They had packets of Chiclets in their pocket to chew on before talking to the teenage girls after the show. The profiles of the tallest of these boys were occasionally, and briefly, reflected in silhouette on to the screen as they elbowed and nudged one another for more comfortable standing positions.

Occasionally ,empty drink bottles would roll down the slanted floor, clanging against the barrier that separated the two seating areas. Steven Spielberg’s film had reached Roatan, over a year after it had premiered in the United States.

Mr. Homer’s theater operated from the early 1960s through the late 1980s. Island movie theaters also operated in Coxen Hole and Oak Ridge. Usually, a movie made the rounds of the Roatan theaters after the film was brought over from La Ceiba. Coxen Hole was the first in line, followed by French Harbour and then Oak Ridge. At one point the theater in Oak Ridge was operated by a Mr. Carlos Bulnes.

There were two theaters in Coxen Hole, one of which often showed Sunday matinees of Kung Fu movies with Spanish subtitles. The theater was located in a single story, unpainted wood building with hard pew benches. Slivers of afternoon sunshine shot through the vertical openings in the walls.

The freshly roasted peanuts the kids sold outside of that theater were delicious. Once, my friend Doe had spent a night down in Coxen Hole and had gone to the movies. A few nights later Doe was sitting next to me at Mr. Homer’s and would not shut up about what would happen next.

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