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Cheri Flynn: worked at a theater as a summer job. (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

Cheri Flynn: worked at a theater as a summer job. (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

One of East Dallas’ long-standing art teachers got her start at one of the pillars of Dallas’ creative scene.

Cherri Flynn, who now teaches at Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, started working when she was 16 at the State Fair Music Hall box office. That means she pulled theater tickets by hand when people called in to buy seats to a show.

Flynn says the analog system of the 1960s required a lot more brainpower than people might expect.

“We had to be able to draw a visual picture [of the hall] in our heads just by talking to them,” she said. “You had to be careful because you could mess things up easily.”

She worked there for one summer while she was in high school. It was a 9-to-5 job in downtown Dallas, which was exciting at first, but reality set in pretty quickly.

“It was a big room and we all had a little cubicle and a phone. You had to wait for people to call, then you just got up and you pulled the tickets,” she says. “You did that during the day, every day.”

Flynn says the system at the time was “very trusting.” Customers called in and Flynn would take down their information and hold their tickets to be picked up and paid for later. It was essentially an honor system for theater patrons.

“It wasn’t like they used a credit card over the phone,” Flynn says.

While the job became tedious, it did have its perks.

Flynn and the 30 other young women in the office took turns working the will-call office at Music Hall the night of shows. Usually two or three people worked the booth each show.

When a show ended its run, the theater staff, including the will-call office, were invited to the cast party. The art deco theater was a popular venue that brought big names to Dallas.

While schmoozing at cast parties, Flynn had the chance to meet some major stars of the day including Carol Burnett, Lyle Waggoner and Gene Kelly.

“Gene Kelly was doing a ‘Singing in the Rain’ stage performance. It was really awesome,” Flynn said. “Gene Kelly was like super, super, super nice. I was shocked as a 16-year-old that he was that old without makeup. That was my first realization that movie stars don’t look as good as you think they do.”

And Carol Burnett?

“She was cracking jokes. She was great,” Flynn says. “We actually got to talk to them.”

The cast parties were far from the glitzy Hollywood affair you might picture when you imagine Gene Kelly at a party in the mid-1960s.

Flynn says they were mostly informal, low-key events.

“They weren’t glamorous at all. There was a room …  I don’t know, just a big room and there were couches behind the stage. It was not a big thing. They were really casual.”

While hobnobbing with celebrities on occasion was fun, Flynn did not return the following summer.

“I guess it couldn’t have been that fun,” she reminisces.

The following summers she worked as a secretary at an insurance office. She also was a seasonal employee at a department store one Christmas, but neither of those jobs held any excitement, either.

Finally she found something closer to what she was looking for: She landed a job at the Dallas Park and Recreation Department running summer programs for children.

“They would plan summer programs at the gyms of local elementary schools,” she recalls. “I would organize games and we’d go to the swimming center.”

Flynn still holds a summer job to this day. The teacher has spent 21 years working at summer camps around Dallas.

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