Literature & FictionFiction, poetry, and literature

While nothing truly exciting ever happened while I was an usher at the Saenger Theater, we did have at least one instance of "gas warfare", you might say.

White Christmas and Gas Warfare at the Saenger Theater

Copyright Donovan Baldwin

Sometime in December 1962, "White Christmas" was shown as a midnight show at the Saenger Theater on Palafox Street in Pensacola. Jim Rawls and I, as usual, were the ushers on duty, and a local off-duty police officer, Ralph Harmon, was working with us.

I was 17 and had been an usher at the Saenger for a few months. I had seen a few weird things, and a few funny things, but that night was different.

Part way into the movie, people began coming up to Jim and Ralph and me complaining of a bad smell in the auditorium. Eventually, a few even began to become ill.

We began to become aware of the smell ourselves, and it WAS pretty bad. It even began to make us feel somewhat ill.

We opened the doors and Ralph got some more officers over to the theater. We also got in touch with Mr. Lyles, the manager, as well.

Ralph, Jim, and I began going through the auditorium, looking under seats. In one section of the theater, Jim found a wet mark on the concrete floor where something appeared to be flowing from the back to the front. The floor slopes downhill, so it appeared that something had been spilled higher up in the auditorium and had flowed down toward the front.

Jim was going row by row, and I saw when he flipped up the seat that had the bottle under it. The smell hit him full force, and he snapped upright.

At that time, many people were sick from whatever the substance was, and we did not know what we were dealing with.

The police got the names of people who were there in order to contact them if the substance turned out to be dangerous.

It turned out that the substance was formaldehyde, and a corpsman from the Pensacola Naval Base had released it in the theater as a joke.

The funny thing was, that it was very cold that night, and the the theater became uncomfortable when we opened the doors. Even so, most of the patrons who had paid to see "White Christmas" stayed in their seats or moved to other parts of the theater and continued to watch the movie even while people were sitting on the exit steps being sick and the interior of the theater became frigid.

About The Author:
Donovan Baldwin is a freelance SEO copywriter living in Texas, and a University of West Florida alumnus. He is a member of Mensa and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service. In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory positions. However, his main pleasures have long been writing, nature, .and fitness. In the last few years, he has been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on subjects such as health, fitness,yoga, writing, the environment, happiness, self improvement, and weight loss.

Don's writing and poetry blog can be found at . -----------------------------------------------------------------

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Don Baldwin
P. O. Box 380819
Duncanville, TX 75138

Original poetry by Donovan Baldwin


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