Last weekend, while helping a friend of mine get some groceries out of her vehicle, I saw, tucked away behind a tire pump and some jumper cables, her old VCR. When I found out it was bound for her upcoming Rummage Sale for M.S. I’m sure I winced. After all, it’s the same VCR we used to watch a marathon of all seven Nightmare on Elm Street movies. I had the box set, after all.
So I bring to you, from the March 23, 1988, Journal Gazette, this item from a page promoting local businesses, featuring one of the only two video stores in Mattoon to really matter, Broadway Video…ahem…Kelsey’s Broadway Video, (then) located at 1713 Broadway Ave. in Mattoon. I give the address just so you dear readers can confirm, like so many such things, that it’s just an empty lot now.
Although my family already rented a lot of our movies from Stars and Stripes Video at the Cross County Mall, formerly located in the vacant storefront to your right if you walk into the central entrance, Kelsey’s Broadway Video was the one that really stuck with me as the place to get your movies, and your sports cards, assuming you weren’t me. I mean…after all, they gave you a membership card. Laminated even.
Plus it’s where I wandered up and down the horror movie aisle getting my mind blown by the insane craziness that was 1980s horror movie VHS box art, such as the cover to (ahem) “Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn,” which, if you looked closely, had a severed arm lying in a pool of blood just at the “feet” of the blobby red toothy space alien. And trust me, when you’re 10 years old, you look real closely at things like that.
If the story of Broadway Video and me had ended there, well, this column would be a lot shorter. But Broadway Video, with or without “Kelsey”, moved to the location where it had the most impact to me, just down the street at 1592 Broadway Ave. You remember, right? The place where they had “Broadway Video” in red neon letters on the storefront?
First of all, by my reasoning and recollection, in terms of square footage, they were probably the biggest video store in town. They had shelves of countless VHS tapes lining the walls all the way around the place, shelves in the middle of the store, and even an entire back section where the kids' movies were, back where a weird little unused sales counter could have been, should have been, a snack bar. Ah, if only.
Around my Lake Land College years, a buddy of mine got a job at Broadway Video, at the perfect shift, weekday nights; which made it the perfect place for me to loiter after my ill-advised night classes at LLC. Honestly…two hours and 15 minutes of “Deviant Behavior”? Sounds like fun on paper, but in practice, not so much.
So after class I’d drive over to Broadway Video and hang out at the counter. Just like a real-life version of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks”; a couple losers at a counter, light from the store spilling out onto the dark street beyond, just talking about movies and stuff. We debated the quality of “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”, I questioned him as to why his “Super Six” movie picks never seemed to change from week to week, and we even helped dazed and confused customers find certain movies they were looking for, usually either horror or sci-fi, going only by whatever garbled info they had to share. Like the time I was able to correctly figure out what movie some weirdo wanted going only by the following information: “You know…Charlie Sheen…and there’s this car…?” The answer, by the way, was “The Wraith”. And yes, they did have that movie.
Occasionally I’d also score some sweet extras and giveaways, like the occasional movie poster, screener copy, and yes, once, even a giant cardboard promotional standee of “Die Hard With a Vengeance”. I sometimes wish my life were like “The Truman Show,” if only so that there was footage of me driving down Western Ave. in my Dodge Omni with a giant sun-faded Bruce Willis sticking out of the back hatch. I can’t tell you how much it killed me to get rid of that thing. It was probably well into the 2000s, by the way.
One night I walked into Broadway Video and my buddy told the place would be shutting its doors, thus giving me first crack at buying any movies I wanted before all the “normals” had a chance to get at them. And you’d best believe I took advantage of that then and there, walking out with a couple bags full of tapes, most of which I still have now, including one that’s apparently so rare that I keep it in a fireproof box.
My buddy went on to become an honest-to-god school administrator, far away from here. Every time I see him, movies will come up and at some point he’ll always shake his head, look down at his beer and say, “Man, I miss Broadway Video. By the end, I was practically running that place myself. It was perfect.” I mention this not to make a point about decisions he’s made in life any more than those in mine; just pointing out that everyone has a thumbtack stuck somewhere in the timeline of their life where they didn’t realize just how good they had it, even if it may not have seemed so at the time.
These days, you hit a button and poof, the movie just appears. But I can’t help but wonder about the next generation of young kids coming up, who don’t know much about life yet but sure know plenty about movies and music, things which are, frankly, life; and just where it is in town they’ll have to talk to each other about it all.