Let's Go Out to the Movies. Pittsfield ME.
Front image: a wobbly shot of the Pittsfield Community Theater taken by the Google Street View buggy.
Big Gay Ice Cream was founded by two guys who had no knowledge of the food and beverage game. I always say “our only prior experience with food was eating it.” Ha ha. Ha. That’s not *quite* true- in high school I had a “professional” food gig. Picture this: the year was 1986 (I think) and virginal young Doug was working in the concession stand at the one-screen movie theater in downtown Pittsfield Maine.
That movie theater is a curiosity. Initially known as Leger's Theater, it dates back to 1915 and the days of silent movies. Sound came along in 1929 and the Bijou Theater, by then the official name, brought Central Maine residents out to the movies. In 1962 a fellow named Glen Wheaton (known to everyone in town even decades after his theater tenure) bought the Bijou. In leaner years the theater was pressed to show porn and in 1975 Glen sold the theater rather than endure all those sticky seat-backs.
Pittsfield is a town of about 4,000 people and there is precious little for a human to do outside their home. Aside from watching youth sports the other pastime is going to the back of the town park, to an area known as “paradise” to make out. The closing of The Bijou would have left residents deranged with boredom and potentially driven to tomfoolery so Cianbro (a major construction firm based in Pittsfield) bought it. The theater was eventually donated to the town, which re-christened it the Pittsfield Community Theater and it has run municipally since 1977.
The Pittsfield Community Theater showed second run films, maybe third run if there is such a thing, but people sure turned up. My first memory of the theater comes from 1976 when I was five years old. My parents wanted the house to themselves so mom gave my sisters Nancy and Janet a few bucks for movie tickets with the stipulation that they take me along. The movie that evening was JAWS and I hid under my seat, literally stuck to the floor by soda spills and errant Good & Plenty. If you know me you can easily imagine that even as a little kid I couldn’t stand stains. Terrified to look up, disgusted by what was underneath, the trauma is still too great to resolve. There's no way I would ever eat a Good & Plenty.
In the late 1980's the theater ran Rocky Horror a few times as a late show. The only patrons were me and about 8 friends. One night there was also a pervish-looking loner- I think he expected porn. Rocky Horror was not a great financial coup for the theater.
My job- for which I recall getting paid $8 a night, probably three times the price of a ticket- consisted mainly of hauling soda canisters up from the basement (theater manager Marilyn couldn’t wrangle them) and scooping up bags of popcorn. I learned how to hook up soda lines and filled endless cups with RC Cola. The popcorn smelled just great and those horrible movie theater nachos were still a decade away. Times were way better except for that whole AIDS epidemic. For you kids, AIDS was one bitch of a flu mixed with a smattering of cancer- thankfully a cure was quickly discovered by Al Gore.
The job had an unrelated duty- putting the red magnetic letters up on the marquee. Naturally if the name of the movie had more than a few Es I would have to use a backwards 3, but I never misspelled a title. My predecessor Doug Frati can’t claim that. Somewhere in a family album is a photo of the marquee advertising “Blazzing Saddles.” Doug's handiwork.
I can’t say that I learned anything about working in a kitchen but I did have one thing drilled into me for life: if you’re working with food you wear a hair restraint. Marilyn would never have allowed me in there without a cap on. To this day I feel uneasy if I make even a single cone with my head uncovered and I occasionally throw on a ball cap when I’m cooking at home. When I go into a restaurant kitchen and see chefs with their hair out I want to write them up as we would our own employees. Only Tom Colicchio gets a pass.
I try to keep close track of our shops on social media channels and occasionally I’ll spot a photo showing one of our employees with a naked head. Bryan and I both freak the hell out over this. It’s a Department of Health regulation- our "A" restaurant letter grade could suffer a serious ding because of that unharnessed mane. That’s no laughing matter, but there is an even better argument for keeping your hair under wraps: NO ONE WANTS YOUR DAMNED HAIR IN THEIR FOOD.
Our shops have never scored below an A. Thank you, Marilyn.