Today I am writing about when I used to go to the movies at Ford City Cinema on Pepsi-Cola Bottle Cap Days. When I was living in the Ashburn neighborhood in the mid-1970s, the first time I heard about this was from the kids in my neighborhood, and they told that you would collect six Pepsi-Cola bottle caps to use for admission to go to the movies at Ford City Cinema at Ford City Shopping Center. They did this during the summer seasons on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
One day, all of us went to the movies on a Tuesday, which I did some research on The Chicago Tribune website. The date was on August 16, 1976, and the movie we went to see was, The Shakiest Gun in The West that starred Don Knotts. First, my brothers and I had to search for some bottle caps. Fortunately, our friends had some extra bottle caps, and they gave six bottle caps each to my brothers. There wasn’t any for me, so my mother was in the basement kitchen, and I asked her if there are any Pepsi bottles in the house. She has bought an 8-Pack bottle of Pepsi at Jewel that was at 84th St and S Pulaski Road. I asked her if I can take the caps off the bottles and use them to go to the movies. My mother was very unfamiliar with what was going on in the neighborhood, and I thought she would refuse. Luckily, she had two plastic pitchers in the house, and I suggested pouring all the Pepsi-Cola in the pitchers. She said yes. So, I had to do this in a hurry, opened six bottles of Pepsi-Cola, and poured all of it in the two pitchers. They were one or two bottles of Pepsi left over, so my mother suggested that once the movie was over, I can bring everyone back, and we all drink the Pepsi from the pitchers. She said fine. And now, I got my six bottle caps, and I was off to the movies.
I caught with my friends, and we were on our way. My mother drove us to The Ford City Cinema. The theater had three screens. When it opened on May 27, 1966, it had two screens and on February 22, 1973; it added another screen. We all waited in line at with our bottle caps in our hands. I remembered the line was so long and everyone was very eager to see the movie.
I saw the movie only once on television when it was on the 3:30 movie on WLS-TV Channel 7, and it had Don Knotts Movie Week. It showed most of his movies, like The Incredible Mr. Limpet, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Love God?, The Reluctant Astronaut, and The Shakiest Gun in the West. They released the movie in 1968 and people still remembered Don Knotts who played Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show which reruns were on WGN-TV Channel 9 for years.
Everyone included myself enjoyed the movie very much. It was a great experience. The General Cinema Corporation did the Pepsi-Cola promotions. They did it at all the theaters in the Chicagoland area. Not sure if they did this to the rest of the country. I don’t know when it started or ended, but it very memorable for everyone who went to the movies during the 1970s.
Going to movies now is so expensive and when you are telling kids today, that we went when to the movies using Pepsi-Colas bottle caps as free admissions, they would roll their eyes, have a perplexed look on their faces, or tell we made the whole thing up. I tell them it was all true, and you had to be there.
One day, I went to Chicago Ridge Mall to see the movie Shazam with my brother. Before we entered the mall, I found an old bottle cap on the ground that I stepped on. I picked it up, and the memories came flashing back to my mind about Ford City Cinema. I put the bottle cap in my pocket and headed for the theater with a smile on my face. It was a beautiful feeling. Ford City Cinema closed in 1990 and it moved to another location at Ford City Shopping Center with 14 screens. Thank you, everyone. Pete Kastanes, Admin for Vanished Chicagoland Facebook Page.