For more than 40 years, Gus Hindenlang greeted visitors at the sole movie theater in Westhampton Beach.Over that span he watched movie fads come and go, and ownership of the old brick building that overlooks the former six corners in the village change hands several times, all while he ripped ticket stubs and swept popcorn from the aisles of the intimate twin theater.
At 88 years of age, Mr. Hindenlang said he had no plans to retire. That is, until one day he could not stand.
From a recliner inside his East Moriches home last week, Mr. Hindenlang explained that his health troubles—the kind that come with age—kept him from returning to his part-time job at the Hampton Arts Cinema late last year.
“I had hoped to go back,” he said.
He explained that he and his late wife, Elizabeth Hindenlang, high school sweethearts from New Jersey, spent about a decade traveling across the country with their three children while he worked on various farms before settling on the East End around 1957, when he landed a job as a government poultry inspector.
He soon picked up a side job as an usher at the movie theater on Main Street, where the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center now stands, and worked there for 10 years before moving over to the Hampton Arts Cinema near the traffic circle.
It was the people, Mr. Hindenlang said, who kept him coming back to his side job. He said he enjoyed seeing the familiar faces of cinephiles who knew him on a first-name basis, and even some of the more prominent customers, including former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.
The key to his enjoyment, he explained, is that the work didn’t really feel like work to him.
“If you enjoy it, it makes it a lot easier,” he added.
Laurie Rubick, a manager at the movie theater, said Mr. Hindenlang was a kind and loyal employee, with whom she had grown close. She said he would do whatever task was asked of him, and always with a smile on his face. Whenever she would send the younger employees to help him clean up the theaters, he would turn down the help, she said.
“His brain was a calculator,” Ms. Rubick added, explaining that her former employee was sharp and worked out math problems before others could calculate a number on paper. “If you need a hand with something, Gus will be right there,” she said.
Mr. Hindenlang witnessed the evolution of film throughout his years at the movie theater. One movie in particular, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” brought throngs of teens for years, he said. The 1975 British musical comedy horror film, which starred Tim Curry, still has a cult-like following among horror B movie aficionados.
“It would fill that theater like crazy,” he said, referring to the screenings of the flick. “At the time, I thought it was silly, but when I see it now, it has more of a meaning.”
He listed the James Bond films among his favorites, though he did not have a specific film in mind. “I enjoy the older ones,” he said. “Nowadays, they hit you with a plot and, ‘Bang, bang, bang,’ and that’s all that there is.”
Though his work schedule was reduced to only one day a week toward the end of his time at the Hampton Arts Cinema, Mr. Hindenlang said he was sorry he could not return to his station.
“It was something to look forward to doing,” he said.
And one thing is for certain: He won’t be easy to replace.
“It’s just odd not having him there, you know?” Ms. Rubick said this week. “We miss him.”