Silver screen adventure led to real-life excitement

Silver screen adventure led to real-life excitement By Bob Karolevitz It was in 1931 that the movie Cimarron was made from the classic novel by Edna Ferber.

Literally thousands of would-be homesteaders crossed the Cimarron River beginning at noon on April 22, 1889, when the Indian lands of Oklahoma were opened to settlement. Richard Dix and Irene Dunne were the lead characters in the film about that historic land rush, and the movie eventually came to our town in South Dakota.

At the time I knew little about the history of the Old West, and I probably cared less as a 10-year-old. However, Cimarron promised lots of six-gun excitement for me and my young buddy, Bobby Brewer, as we made our way to the movie theater that Sunday afternoon in the early Dirty Thirties.

It was everything we expected. We were enthralled by the wild scene of men and women on horseback, in careening buggies and even on foot making the mad dash for homesteads and building lots. Tom Mix and Hoot Gibson never starred in epics like that.

But that isn't what I remember most about the day!

After the first show I left the theater while my friend stayed for another viewing. I guess I forgot about him as I played marbles or did whatever youngsters did in those days.

Night time came, and that's when policemen suddenly showed up at our door. Bobby Brewer was missing, and I had been the last to see him. They needed me to show them where he sat in the theater.

I have a hazy memory of getting into Yankton's lone police car for my unexpected role in that "missing persons" drama. I was taken to the Dakota Theater where I walked down the dark aisle during the fourth showing of Cimarron to where Bobby and I had our seats.

He wasn't there!

That's when cautious concern changed to uneasy anxiety. Where was he? Was he the victim of foul play at a time when that was almost unheard of in a town like ours?

I stayed with the police as we began the search of his possible route home, then located at the edge of town. I recall the officers stopping along the way, shining their flashlights under bushes and behind old buildings, no doubt hoping that they wouldn't find him there.

Believe me, it was a mighty scary experience for a kid my age.

We had reached the darkest part of the route (there were no street lights there), and the policemen were searching around the deserted bathhouse of the local swimming pool when we heard it.

Down the unpaved street came the sound of running feet. Flashlights were quickly directed toward that pattering in the eerie darkness.

Needless to say, it was Bobby Brewer, running wide-eyed and breathlessly toward home. He had gotten his dime's worth from multiple showings of Cimarron, and apparently he had fallen asleep before the fourth screening.

Suffice to say, the reunion with his relieved parents was obviously emotional; but when the anxiousness had finally waned, I think he got a good scolding for the worry he had caused. The episode had a happy ending, though.

Bob grew up to be a driver of giant trucks and a fine musician at his organ keyboard. I haven't talked with him about it, and I wonder if he recalls � as I do � that fateful Sunday.

Edna Ferber didn't know she was responsible for our little hometown drama that day, but her Cimarron certainly left its mark on the lives of two young South Dakotans. Some 67 years later I remember it still.

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