RIP Conway UA Cinema Six

I was leaving McDonald’s this morning (Oatmeal and black coffee. I’m trying.) when I noticed the sign showing the closing of the UA Cinema Six in Conway.

The place had to be over 35 years old.

I suspected the old place might close down when the new theater in Conway opened. The new Cinemark with stadium seating, fat-boy chairs (yes!), digital projection, and floors that have not gotten sticky yet. I guess it was just a matter of time. Movie goers, me included, started going to Little Rock to see movies. The Rave and the Chenal IMAX were just a much better place to watch a show.

And as long as the old Cinemark was just as run down as the UA Cinema Six, they could both survive on the “I ain’t driving that far to see a movie” crowd in Conway. But once Cinemark rebuilt with a state-of-the-art place, it was all over for the old UA Cinema Six.

I saw lots of great movies at the UA Cinema Six . Real blockbusters. I saw Jaws, all three Star Wars, and Raiders Of The Lost Ark there. I saw Jason and Freddy Krueger make teen cutlets there.  Godzilla stomped Tokyo there. Sinbad made voyages there.

Basically, if it came out bewteen 1975 – 1985, The UA Cinema Six is probably where I saw it.

But the thing I recall most is how that old movie theater was the social gathering place on Friday night during my middle school and Jr. High years (ie…before getting a driver’s license).

A typical Friday night at the UA Cinema Six circa 1979-82:

Our parents would drop us off at around 6:15. The usual suspects in our group were Me, Chris Curtis, Mike Feehan, Mike Clegg, Mark Clegg, and Eric Nay. One of us might be there with some little gal, but the core group was pretty consistant.

It seemed like every other kid from school was there as well. Lots of them. It was THE place to be for the young teen set on a non-football Friday night.

We might spend a little while in Wal-Mart poking around or we would head into Dr. Gonzo’s. (Head! Dr. Gonzo’s. I’m onnaroll! Man. Remember that sandlewood smell in Gonzo’s?)

About five minutes before the start time of the movie, we would buy our tickets and head to our seats. (Could NOT be late for the trailers!) There were two screens back then, and they were layed out the same. In each one, our ‘assigned seats’ were about midway down on the right side. One of our group even carved their initials in the wooden arm on one of the chairs. (I’m looking at you Clegg. Not saying which Clegg, but I am looking at you brother!)

After the movie, we would head over to McDonald’s and spend an hour or so there until our folks would pick us up at 10:00.

Lots of memories. Good memories.

Thank You Kim Bodell For The Best Summer Ever

I found out about his passing almost 4-years too late to say thank you for all the things he taught me. I was reminded of him when I found his name on a piece of paper stowed away in an old cigar box I had in the top of my closet. The box was filled with various mementos from my adolescence. There were old photos from Jr. High, old concert ticket stubs, and a piece of paper at the bottom with the name Kim Bodell.

The summer of 1980 had yet to go on record as the hottest on record in Arkansas. It was June and a bunch of teen aged boys who had been hired as camp counselors, instructors, kitchen help, and lifeguards had assembled just outside of Damascus, Arkansas at Cove Creek Scout Reservation in preparation for the 1980 Summer Camp. The staff arrived a week before the start of camp to get everything set-up and ready for the Boy Scout troops that would soon be arriving for a week of fun, merit badges, campfires and mosquito swatting. But before the troops arrived, there were tents to pitch at the camp sites, canoes and rowboats that had to be brought out of storage and tested for leaks, a kitchen that had to be stocked and cleaned, and thousands of other little details to be sorted through before camp started.

I have wonderful memories of that summer sitting on the waterfront at a picnic table under a tarp listening to the radio. I remember it was during the Iran Hostage crisis and we we would see C-130 planes painted in desert colors doing training flights over the camp everyday. And I remember it was hot. Bad hot. And I remember our boss that summer. On the first day, we were introduced to our 26-year-old waterfront director. The man who had one week to take a bunch of teen-aged boys and turn them into lifeguards and swimming instructors. In one week, we learned how use a reach pole, throw a ring-buoy into an area of three-feet from 40-feet away and look for the adverse signs of heat on a person.

The first thing that struck me about Bernard Kim Bodell was his name. I had yet to ever meet a man with the name Kim. The second thing that struck me was his sheer force of personality. Always on the edge of busting into laughter, Kim was always jovial with us boys and always had a story to tell. Man, did he have stories. His stories were life lessons and cautionary tales from his own life. He held nothing back as he told us of things he had done in his past and the consequences those choices had brought – good or bad. He was honest and talked to us like adults. I appreciated and admired him for that.

Kim had brought along his new wife for the summer. The way he spoke to her and about her showed how much he loved Patricia Bodell. Another lesson he taught, probably without even realizing it, was you can be a manly kind of guy and still know how to treat a lady with respect and to speak about her respectfully to others. Kim taught us well how to see when a person was in distress. More than a couple of times we had to pull campers out of the water, and we had one case of heat stroke that almost took a young boy. Because of his instruction and direction, I am convinced that Kim saved that boy’s life and probably others that summer by teaching us how to react in a crisis situation.

Kim took the role of big brother to the four teens that made up his waterfront staff. He invited us to the cabin he and Patricia shared for a meal of venison and rice one evening. He always listened to the woes of teenaged angst and managed to keep a straight face. He would joke with us all throughout the long, hot days. He would make sure we drank lots of water and took our salt pills to deal with the oppresive heat. We would talk of manly things like hunting and motorcyles and good ol’ rock ‘n roll music. He was the first man who had a major influence on my life besides my own father. The first time an adult was more friend than authority figure. In no time it seemed the summer was over and we all left to our own lives outside of Cove Creek and I lost track of Kim and Patricia.

So years pass and I find his name written on a piece of paper in my closet. I run it through Google and found this news from 2004:

Fredricksburg, VA – Bernard Kim Bodell, 49, of Stafford County, passed away Wednesday, March 31, 2004, at his residence.

Mr. Bodell was a member of the Third Tradition Motorcycle Club and the Final Option Motorcycle Club. He had retired from the United States Marine Corps.

Mr. Bodell was preceded in death by his mother, Betty Jo Bodell, and is survived by his wife of 23 years, Patricia Bodell; his father, Herbert K. Bodell of Heber Springs, Ark.; a brother and his wife, Scott and Sylvia Bodell of Dallas, Texas; two nephews, Cameron and Carter; his two dogs, Samson and Delilah; and his three cats, Buckwheat, Bart and Baby Zorro.

A celebration of his life will be held from 12:30 to 4 p.m. at the Stafford Rescue Squad, located behind Stafford Courthouse on U.S. 1, on Saturday, April 3. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Cancer Center of Virginia, 5040 Plank Road, Fredericksburg, Va. 22407; or to the Hospice of Northern Virginia, 6565 Arlington Blvd., Suite 501, Falls Church, Va. 22042.

I am now mourning the passing of a man I have not seen in 27 years, but who taught me a good many things. I did notice that he was still married to Patricia when he passed. That made me very happy. I hope their years together were good beyond measure.

Patricia, I will keep you in my prayers and just wanted you to know the impact Kim had on a bunch of rowdy teen-aged boys during one hot summer.

Bernard Kim Bodell, I thank you and salute you for more than you probably realized. Butch Renfroe, Waterfront – Cove Creek Scout Reservation 1980