The Wednesday Night Drawing at the Palace Theatre
The date is July 5, 1950. The time is 9:27 PM. The place is the Palace Theatre in Elmwood, Illinois, a small country town, west of Peoria, filled with retired farmers and factory workers.
The first picture show began at 7 PM, and the second will commence shortly when the drawing is over. Arwin Archibald, a part-time employee in the projection booth, is rewinding the film: a newsreel, a cartoon, and the main feature, a mystery movie. The scratchy newsreel is about increased tensions along the 38th parallel in Korea and the cartoon features Road Runner, the strange looking chicken that races cars and motorcycles down dusty roads. James Cagney, the little man with the big part, stars in the feature, his latest gangster movie, “Public Enemy.”
As the stage lights come on, 20 or 30 kids, from 6 to 16, crowd along the waist-high edge of the stage, as Eddie Hahn, the proprietor, pushes a homemade drum made of chicken wire to the center of the stage. He gives the drum a spin, and then another, as the cards with names, addresses, and telephone numbers tumble, end over end. Almost immediately the children raise their arms high and begin chanting in unison: “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.”
Eddie looks down the row of children, mostly young boys in crew cuts, and points his skinny index finger at Jack Jordan, who jumps up on the stage, facing the audience. Momentarily he is blinded by the stage lights, but he tries to find a friendly face in the audience,