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The Midnight Club

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The original members of The Midnight Club were three - Bill Murch, Alexis J. Fournier, and me. Bill was manager of the local motion picture theater, owned by a chain. He is the only man I ever knew well who wore spats, and I accused him once of doing so to save the expense of socks. Whereupon he showed me that he wore socks, too, so I never knew why he wore spats. This was back in the days of Ann Harding and Jack Holt, when a picture show was 25 cents and a bag of popcorn a nickel. On Fridays, Bill booked in five acts of vaudeville and the price went up to 35 cents.

Alexis J. Fournier was the ticket taker at Bill's theater. He had a smashing uniform in the finest tradition of Hollywood splendor, so going to the movies was something like being admitted into the palace of a minor European monarch. Alexis J. Fournier was called Dempsey, for he looked like the boxer. Now Dempsey was also assistant chief of police, for which he had another and less magnificent uniform. But if Dempsey was taking tickets and an emergency arose, he would signal to Bill and Bill would step forward to take tickets while Dempsey was gone. Out-of-state motorists who got nabbed for speeding would sit speechless as Dempsey appeared in gilt, braid, spangles, and epaulets to write their summonses.

I, the third man in this theme, was the kid reporter on the local weekly paper, a job that allowed me to fend off the Roosevelt doldrums of the 1930s and evade the WPA and the CCC. I was just out of college, and by waving my bachelor's diploma I convinced the publisher I was worth $25 a week, for which amount I met all the trains to see who was coming and who was going, attended all fires, accidents, political meetings, and sporting events, logged the golden weddings and birthdays, and after writing the paper I would tie up bundles on publication day and then take the bundles to the post office. My day began just before breakfast and continued.

It thus happened that on a certain evening I turned off the light in the sanctum and came along by the town house just as the big steeple clock bonged midnight. Bill had just dropped the day's receipts into the night depository of the bank, and he and Dempsey were standing in front of the town house about to say goodnight and go their ways. ''The meeting will now come to order!'' I said, and The Midnight Club was organized.


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