One of the strongest memories from my childhood in West Virginia is of listening to coal trains at all hours of the day and night. Train tracks divided our town in half, and the trains’ melancholy whistle was part of daily life. Every weekend my sister and I scraped together our allowance to go to the movies, and we had to cross under the train tracks to get there. The pedestrian passageway was dank and sinister, but we had to brave it. We raced under and back into the daylight as fast as we could and usually arrived at the theater with only minutes to spare.
In my memory it was always summer, and we were always running from the heat of midday into the darkness under the 8th Street Viaduct. It was a fitting ritual to get to our favorite theater, the Keith Albee— a faded ’20’s movie palace with heavily gilded ceilings, dusty velvet curtains, and louche red carpeting. Gold ropes lined the stairs to the cavernous ladies lounge in the basement, which was filled with dusty abandoned parlor furniture and elaborately tiled floors. Matinees were never crowded, and the theater was a cool, private respite from the everyday world.
Kim and I saw every movie playing. Nobody paid much attention to PG or R ratings in those days. When I was twelve, we happened to go see a movie called Blood Simple. In my memory we sat alone in the theater, heads resting side by side against the worn padding of the seats, and soaked in the images: a twirling ceiling fan, a bloody knife, and despair etched on every plane of Frances McDormand’s beautiful face. And when we saw the names of Joel and Ethan Coen on the big screen, Kim told me that one day we would do the same thing. That was the kernel of the idea for the Spurlock Sisters Magic Movie Team.
And so that’s us—Rednecks, Amerasians, Cinephiles and Goofballs.
Mai Spurlock Sykes