The Esquire and Butch

Because place matters.

By Laura Robertson

She sits silent, her once-lighted Esquire sign drooping with age and neglect. Flashy billboards no longer attract patrons from under glass frames. The ticket window has yellowed papers stuck to part of the inside glass. The smell of freshly popped popcorn does not emanate through the cracks of the heavy doors onto the Broadway sidewalks. Her spirit is broken. All that is left are the memories.

It had been more than 40 years since this SEMO graduate had been back to Cape, and this trip included taking my daughter, Whitney — a special education teacher at Cape Central — down to Broadway’s memory lane. The landmark buildings are still there, but the tenants are not: Dairy Queen, Last Chance Saloon where we toasted my 21st legal birthday, the grocery store with 19-cent Swanson pot pies and, of course, KGMO. The Esquire Theater was there to hold court as we rode on homecoming floats and in open convertibles in the ‘70s, me the Phi Sig Sweetheart in 1972. Life couldn’t get any better. This was our home.

But the Esquire was just a show, cine, a building. Right? No, it was the first date of a 40-year love story. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was playing.

I had met my new fella collecting for a Greek fundraiser at a discount store called Carops that day. We awkwardly walked to the show, not knowing what was in store movie-wise or personally. The movie was great, and so was the ice cream at Dairy Queen.

The rest is history. A candlelight ceremony at the Alpha Xi house was to follow. Engagement, wedding, family.

A large framed black-and-white photo of Butch and “The Kid” hangs on a wall in our TV room with pictures from college surrounding it. Painted tongue-and-cheek signs hang with them saying, “Antiques” and “It’s a wonderful life.” Yes, it is. Fabulous bareboat sailing adventures in the Caribbean, including a head-on collision with a wayward whale, homesteading in St. Louis County, parenting at 37, and education and business careers have resulted since that one special night. Infertility, cancers, a career loss and a stock market 401K killer have been a part of our legacy. We have survived and thrived.

But through it all is the Esquire and Butch. We watch the reruns on cable and recite the lines perfectly, especially the chatter between Butch and Sundance when they are faced with being shot or jumping to their deaths from a cliff to a river below. Sundance remarks he can’t swim. Butch replies the fall will kill them anyway. Like them, we took the plunge and survived to weather another day.

Thank you, historic Esquire Theater, for the wonderful memories that were ahead. Two tickets, one movie, one love. As we return to Cape in search of our last home, the circle is closing.

On with the Esquire renovation let others have memories to make.