Tag Archives: truth

The (Rumored) Truth of Movie Popcorn’s Origin

The first informant is a 65-year-old man who grew up in Southside Chicago and Baltimore with his parents and two brothers. He is a father, grandfather, patent attorney, musician, and inventor.

The second informant is a 95-year old man who grew up in Davenport, right near downtown with his parents and two brothers. His father came over from Russia and owned a grocery store in Davenport. He now lives in Skokie, IL with his wife and caretaker. He has three sons and 9 grandchildren.


Informant 1: “Your great, great-grandmother on your Grandma’s side was the pioneering movie theater operators.”

Informant 2: She was the one who started popcorn in theaters.”

Informant 1: “Well, it was rumored she was.”

Informant 2: “No, that was a definite.

Informant 1: “Umm,”

Informant 2: “And, what happened was there was a theater chain that was in Davenport. And it was very profitable, and the owner found out that she was doing it, and he started doing it and told the other theater chains. I read something historical somewhere about popcorn and they’re giving that theater chain credit, when they actually copied it from Grandmother.”


This particular interview made me think of the film we watched early on in the semester, Whose Song is It Anyway.


It’s an origin story—or an attempted, alleged origin story—of popcorn in movie theaters. Informant 2 was insistent that his grandmother had in fact been the pioneer of movie theater popcorn and got somewhat heated when Informant 1 suggested that it might be rumor that she actually did this. Informant 2’s account was closely concerned with credit and business—the idea of the underdog, or the small business, versus the big chain.


This interview concerns originality and relates to our discussions about originality and society’s—in particular, American society—obsession with it. Copyright falls into this arena, as well, a legal way of giving credit, and in doing so, giving ownership, to one individual or corporation for something that very well has been the product of several minds and over the span of several years.

Door to Life or Death

Form of Folklore:  Folk Belief (Riddle)

Informant Bio:  The informant was born and raised primarily in Glendale, California; he only left the United States for a two year period (from age fourteen to fifteen) to live in London, England.  Most of his knowledge of folklore is from his mother (of Irish decent), his father (of Persian-Armenian decent), and media such as the internet and television.

Context:  The interview was conducted on the porch of the informant’s house in the presence of two other informants.

Item:    So there’s the riddle of two doors and two guards; one door leads to life, one door leads to death, one guard will always tell the truth and one guard will always lie.  And the two guards are not attached to the doors; the truth teller is not, for example, attached to the door of life, nor is the liar attached to the door of death.  It could be in front of either one.  Your objective is to find out which one… your objective, should you choose to accept it… is to find out which door leads to life, by asking one guard one question.

The answer to the riddle is:  you ask whichever guard you wish, “what will the other guard say is the right door?”  If the guard you ask happens to be the truth teller, he will truthfully tell you that the other guard will point to the wrong door.  And if you ask the liar, “what will the truth teller say?” the liar will lie about what the truth teller will say and will point to the wrong door.  So either way, if you ask “what will the other guard say is the right door?” the guard you’re talking to will point at the wrong door.  And you go through the other one.

Informant Comments:  The informant was introduced to this riddle when he was in the sixth grade.  He believes it is an interesting riddle which helps students develop strong analytic skills starting from a very young age.  Personally, the informant enjoys riddles like this one, mainly because he likes to enhance his own way of thinking.

Analysis:  This riddle is mainly used to challenge those who attempt to solve it.  Having to figure out which question, when addressed to either the liar or the truth tell, would eliminate the importance of which guard you are talking to, forces those who are introduced to this folklore to use logical reasoning and laws of negation in order to identify the door to life.  Though they may not be aware of it, people are strengthening their reasoning skills by hearing this riddle and trying to solve it.  As a pleasant addition to the riddle, the informant added some humor by referencing a famous line from the Mission Impossible films.  By pausing to say, “your mission, should you choose to accept it”, the informant gave the riddle a lightened humorous feel.  This offered a nice balance to the performance of this folklore; the riddle was challenging and yet entertaining at the same time.

The Lollipop Tree

Growing up there were a lot of hills all around our home and neighborhood wherever you looked. You could also see hills way out in the distance on the bus to and from elementary school. There was this one tree on one of the hills that was way, way the farthest away. It came up straight and narrow with no branches until you got to the top of the tree, which was a perfect circle. It was basically a lollipop-looking tree. I don’t know how we knew it was a tree or how we could only see that tree from far away, but it seemed to be the only tree on the hill, and it sat perfectly at the top center of the hill.
Anyway, what some of the kids would say was that it was the “lollipop tree,” and if you somehow got passed all the hills and made your way up close to it, if you said something true you would get a fistful of lollipops. But if you lied near the tree, or touching it, something terrible would happen. Like maybe you or a loved one would die.
Some people said if you lied just while looking at it, even from so far away on the bus, you could get into some serious trouble.
That tree must have been a big deal, because sometimes a bus driver would even yell, “There’s the lollipop tree!” And they’d point at it out the windshield.

The story of the lollipop tree is a cautionary tale meant to teach good behavior to the children of the rural community. While sometimes the legend served as a right of initiation, as adults or older children who no longer believed in the magic would tell younger children to encourage honesty or to frighten them, it also served as a myth for why there was such a strange, distinctive tree on the town skyline. The tree was visible enough that it aroused curiosity, but so far away that not many people seemed to know the truth of why it was there alone, or if it was even a tree.