Comments from SPearce

Showing 26 - 50 of 64 comments

SPearce commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 10, 2008 at 10:19 am

Thank you, Scott. I have glanced at a couple of sites, including the wrecking of the Buena Pres. Church. I would add, that I do indeed remember there were a good many Native Americans in the area in the early ‘60s. At the time I was sensitive to the juxtapositions of style especially on commercial streets and intersections, which could sometimes be disheartening as they began to go into blight, but other streets had continuity of style and the beauty they were designed to evoke was visible. I was aware of “compassrose” but had not studied the links. A friend of mine worked the concession at the Uptown. I would usually go to the early show and talk to the conessionaires as they prepped. It is coming back to me that there were still some large houses and “mansions” just east of Broadway; that there were streets over there with old houses."

SPearce commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 9, 2008 at 9:25 pm

Thanks for the information, Scott. That whole area of the northside along Broadway and Sheridan had design and construction worth saving.

There was a building near the church that indeed looked like nothing but an auto dealership, but there was no auto dealership there in my time. It was a landmark.

I thought for sure Biasetti’s had closed.

SPearce commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 9, 2008 at 7:23 pm

Scott: Thank you for your response and information. I am glad to learn you have such a project. I have not been in the area in decades. Some of the theater sites are difficult for me to picture now. It would seem you have carved out a pretty big chunk of area to write about. I would offer to provide a little help with some of the shops along Broadway in the Uptown area if needed.

My understanding of the Chateau area was that the core of it was along Broadway between Grace St. and Irving Park Rd. and it extended east and west; I never knew quite how far. This is where the
“Vogue” Theater was located. I think there was a jewelry store south of the Vogue and a hat shop north of it on Broadway in the Chateau area.

I attended the Buena (pronounced Byoo-en-a) Presbyterian Church between Sheridan Rd. and Broadway; I thought it faced Buena. My recollection is that Sheridan south of Buena to Irving Park Rd. was pretty much apt. buildings, and there was a bus route. I think there were some large apt. buildings that almost resembled colonial houses there. Is this where Clarendon is; I remember the name, but can’t find the street. I would not be surprised but that if you could collect the names of the old apartments in this area, it would provide you some clues as to an overall name for the neighborhood. I was told the original developer of Chateau ran out of money before he could complete his vision; plus the area of Uptown grew apace and developed another style.

On the south side of Irving Park, just west of Broadway was a row of businesses at the basement level of what I remember may have been a series of about four flats or row houses. The second or third basement business was Helene Studio of Dance. I think she moved out in about 1958-59, but had probably been there for 20 years give or take.

West of Sheridan (don’t remember how far) on Irving Park Rd., I think, on the south side of the street, was a quite popular dinner restaurant, Biasetti’s. I think it closed about 1966.

I think I heard something about the bicycle give-away at the Mode, too; hearing someone had won one.

Sharon Pearce

SPearce commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 9, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Hi charles1954:

I attended LeMoyne School on Waveland from 1956-‘57, then returned from '57-'59 to visit my friend in the area.

I meant to say that Burney Brothers Bakery jumped out at me; I think we used to buy a type of birthday cake there. It was either there or another place in Rodgers Park I dreamed of pulling up in a car and parking in front of a bakery that also served other food, had broad glass windows, was very busy, the street looked like Irving Park Rd, and there were tables inside and out. I have also dreamed about Diversey down near Broadway and Clark, and the area east of Glenwood and Peterson to the lake; but in one dream I was walking west on the street south of the Mode and once past Fremont, decided to try to remember the buildings and streets to see if I could, but I couldn’t, and finally gave up. All to say, that the buildings and streets were either organically powerful or historically so, to leave such an impression.

I do remember the children running around in the Mode so much that some were in the lobby more than in the theater. Once (I think it was on a Sunday), when I was 10 or 11, I asked the clerk in the Box Office to ask them to stop opening and closing the doors to the house so much because it was distracting, and to be more quiet.

I remember the view from the “L” train as it approached the Irving Park-Sheridan station from the south but no real particulars. I remember the corner but not the business in it, or the Hot Dog Haven, or Walgreen’s or Rexall. I do vaguely remember the hardware store though. I have to think about the Sheridan Theater though because I am not sure if I was acquainted with that theater.

I think the Mode ran a good variety of films on any day; and I also think it was starting to show horror movies more so toward the end of the ‘50s when I attended it; when there were too many of them on a bill, I looked for another theater choice, is the way I remember it.

Hope this helps.

SPearce commented about Mode Theatre on Feb 8, 2008 at 8:22 pm

From the Fall of 1956 until probably late 1957 to early ‘58 I attended this movie house sometimes, with a school chum and her brother, who lived to the east over on Fremont, just south of Irving Park Rd. I don’t remember what movies I saw there or much else except that it was easy for children to run over there to see movies because tickets were inexpensive. I remember that when we were thinking of going to see a movie, a parent would say, “Why don’t you just go to the Mode;” meaning, it cost less. Reading your posts, the “yellow tile” rings a bell and the references to black fields, black doors, etc. does as well.

(Decades later at times I had dreams about these and other streets and buildings in Chicago – just trying to identify and sort out myself in the streets; no people or cars present, oddly enough. Perhaps it was a premonition that one day I would be trying to do the same at Cinema Treasures.) Anyway I remember as a young person going to the movies and running around the corner of Irving Park, and there would be the Mode.

I will add that I always called it the Mo-day, and my friend would ridicule me and say, “Mo-day! It’s MODE!” And I would indicate the accent on the “e” and say, “It may be MODE to you, but it’s a French word, and in France that is pronounced "Mo-day.” My friend would say, “But we’re not in France.” This brings up a thought. I posted on the Vogue Theater a while back, which theater is three or four blocks away, in an area that was known as the “Chateau” block, or Chateau neighborhood. Might it have been establishing continuity from one neighborhood to the next in frencifying the movie house name, near the Chateau area, renaming this theater “Mode” in the ‘30s as indicated in a post above? Also, Chicago chose to pattern itself after Paris and French architectural style in the early development period, reportedly (this style is noticeable in the early apt. buildings up Lake Shore Drive). Something specifically self-conscious may have been going on in the renaming of this theater in the '30s.

As to Richard G’s post of Jan. 25, 2004, I think his father was correct about Irving Park Rd. being a border for a neighborhood. The way it was told me was that Irving Park Rd. was the northern border of a neighborhood that proceeded south, and that the same area north from Irving Park Rd., a distance, was supposed to set off yet another neighborhood with another name. The teller could only partly recall it then, and I can’t remember it now, unless it was “De… or something "Garden…”; two or more words. This neighborhood of the Mode did have a name (again, it could have been part of Chateau to the east, but I think it was something else.) I was told some of the streets were labeled “Road,” i.e. Irving Park, Sheridan, for a specific reason here; the roads were dictated to run in the same direction, and when someone pointed out that they obviously didn’t, there was an explanation of why the exception was made here. But “Road” was wanted by the City on those streets for a specific branding reason.

Also, around the corner on Irving Park was a laundromat that many in the neighborhood used in the mid-50s, and a hole-in-the-wall storefront take out eatery I have never forgotten. We could buy a shrimp dinner (all the fried shrimp you could eat, plus fries and cole slaw, I believe) for $1.99, or a Spaghetti dinner for about $2.99 and Pizza about the same or up to $3.99, even NY Steak plates for very little. On Friday or Saturday nights we would pool our coins or dollars and take home more food than we could eat. I have always recalled wistfully that in those days, it was the shrimp dinners that were the “least” expensive.

SPearce commented about Crest Theatre on Feb 8, 2008 at 1:07 pm

About 10 years ago I drove through Fresno, specifically to check out any William Saroyan sites, but drove up and down the streets near downtown and saw some movie theaters that resonated with me as my home town is farther up the San Joaquin Valley, Stockton. The street I most remember in Fresno was beyond the center of downtown (might have been east, but I am not sure), and was up a hill a bit; it was a “High” street and may have been developed as a suburb up-end neighborhood street in the ‘30s and '40s. It was a block or two of architectural treasures, a fair amount of it art moderne in style with many shops renovated, vital coffee houses and tratorrias, foot traffic to some extent, and I noted some art moderne movie theaters (I thought). This may not be where the Crest is sited; but the style of the Crest was, if I remember, the vernacular of the movie houses on that street. It was so reminiscent of my hometown and what I have seen in California of an architectural style of movie house of a period.

I was looking for some sense of the streets of Saroyan’s youthful hometown. Many of his stories/-screenplays were set in Fresno-like towns of the central valley. I had read most of what was published and available of his literary work. Because of Saroyan’s influence (born 1908) for this town and California, and time period, and American literary history of that time period, I would humbly beseech any renovator to consider working on a way to utilize what William Saroyan evoked in his time, which presaged and paralleled development of a theater like the Crest, to use as a cornerstone in any renovation of a genuine article San Joaquin Valley movie house in Fresno. If there was ever a place that should be screening Saroyan’s “The Human Comedy” with some regularity – and especially in 2008 – it is a Fresno movie house, and that is a film that should be shown now. In fact, I am thinking of producing some readings of his work where I live, just because I believe with a sense of urgency it is so important to do now. Saroyan had a lot to say about “Young Man” going off to war; he was a peacenik before his time, and a conscientious objector in WWII, and that thinking figures in much of his work. This is his centenary.

My thought was that through respect, not exploitation, if a tribute place to William Saroyan was developed, for the people (whether locals know him well now or not), Fresno would do itself a world of good by traversing one path being the continuity from him in further identifying its future in restoring its past pedestals of architecture, literature, and motion pictures.

I know there is sculpture devoted to the “child” in his stories in Fresno, but a movie theater probably offers much more potential, the material is available, and Saroyan was a native son. His generic protagonist was often named “Young Man,” a youth of central California who loved movies, and recognized his impulses and raw feelings as he voiced his thoughts of becoming the future American. But who was that future American? Perhaps all the motion pictures since tell us what happened to that youth (Young America) from the end of WWII.

At one time Saroyan was a foremost American/California writer. He wrote plays and screenplays. He depicted movie theaters in screenplays and explored what they were about; i.e. blogging. I searched for a bookstore that catered to Saroyan readers, or a section in a chain bookstore focusing on him. Nothing. Okay. I just wondered when Fresno was going to recognize properly this resource, as what else is a writer?

Evidently this theater may still have some options? I would want to plant a seed here, and maybe others might nurture it. I believe if such a site was developed for him, it would draw for screenings a much wider audience from farther horizons.

SPearce commented about De Luxe Theatre on Feb 7, 2008 at 11:07 pm

KenC- You are correct. I became confused and didn’t check the map. Since I resided west of Ashland, I walked east from Paulina where I lived, along Wilson, to Clark, but I am having trouble vizualizing Wilson from Clark to the Deluxe and Broadway.

Your post is helping me remember. I defer to you and the other posters above as to the condition of the seats. I remember now that toward the end of my viewing days there, I and a friend would have to check the seats carefully to see if there were two adjacent that were not slashed, ripped or torn.

I do recall something about a “pink” clock (which I think was over the corridor toward the back, but not all the way back), and also that there was a lot of gold leaf. The foyer in front was wide and more narrow toward the back.

I remember that the features changed a few times during the week, and I recall the midweek films changed on Thurs. If I noted a film showing in the middle of the week that I wanted to see, I had to plan to see it by Thursday, as the bill would always change then. That’s why I saw so many films there, I guess; that’s when the best films were shown, I thought. At first, I wondered why management did not extend those films through the weekend. I understand now. They were drawing their best audience on Wed and Thurs from the neighborhood, and let the weekend take care of itself. We always thought that it seemed to compete with the Uptown and maybe the Riviera that way, too; by showing better films in the middle of the week only.

There was a welfare apt. hotel across from the Deluxe which went downhill fast and took the neighborhood with it; also another around the corner on Racine. There was a small diner adjacent on the west side of the Backstage from around 1964-6 with a door inside that opened into the burlesque theater. I think the manager used to sit behind the front counter of the diner at the cash register, read the newspaper all day, and smoke a cigar; happening by, one would see him through the window; he put me in mind of Jack Ruby. That intersection changed fast. By 1966 I was gone, and rarely happened through there.

SPearce commented about Carnegie Theatre on Feb 6, 2008 at 10:37 pm

I would add this thought if I may. Someone told me that on “Poppy Day” (Memorial Day) in May 1964 a group of women, with spouses or escorts who were members of the American Legion Post near Rush St., it being known as the Rush St. Post (and a club of its own), sold poppies for a couple of hours in the evening along Rush St., stopping at all the businesses including the nightclubs, as a fundraiser. Many of the persons who patronized the businesses, and who ran them then, were veterans. They said it was a lot of fun and an experience, and they did that there because there were many thriving businesses, and it was a well lit street then; not “seedy.”

SPearce commented about Fox Theatre on Feb 6, 2008 at 10:20 pm

In the Spring Semester of 1964 I attended the U. of AZ. In cleaning out some saved items from then I have found a Student Discount Card – a blue field with a white-lined illustration of a theater with the words “FOX” and “THEATRES” on the marquee and the vertical above it bearing the word FOX, and a kleig light and stars and light flashes in the sky. On the left is a cane with flag/banners in red/white/ blue with the three words FOX WEST COAST separated in each flag/ banner. Under it is the signature of Wm. H. Thedford. The id number under that is “518470” and “Expires June 30, 1964.” Then there was a place for a student’s signature.

On the backside it also bears:
“This card entitles bearer to Fox West Coast Student Discount Admission Price.

Not good for Special or Reserved Seat Attractions.

Present at the box office with Student Identification.

Discount Privilege will be revoked if used by other than original purchaser."

It also bears in the bottom left corner at the back a small “n” over a small “c” inside the capitol letter “G” and at the center “PRICE 50 (cents).”

If any preservation group for the Fox Theater in Tucson would be interested in this discount card to add to their collection of memorabilia for this theater, please advise.

Can anyone answer this question? In the Spring of 1964 I saw “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in a small theater in Tucson, favored by students, that was the first “arthouse movie theater” I ever attended. Might anyone recall or share the name of it? It was quite a well attended theater, not large, and had posters of many films shown there on display in the exterior reception walls leading to the entrance to the theater. It seemed like it may have been a “wood” entry. I was surprised at the number of patrons it could house at one time. I also remember for the quality of films shown, the price seemed fairly modest (even though it was a university town).

SPearce commented about De Luxe Theatre on Feb 4, 2008 at 5:28 pm

In the late ‘50s and early '60s, the DeLuxe…was. In 1962 when I was in high school, I worked at F.W. Woolworth, which was located around the corner on N. Clark St. One could still enjoy a surprisingly nice theater experience at the DeLuxe then. It was well decorated in a way that kept it still well suited in the Uptown area of theaters. Not as large as some, it was, once inside the doors, remarkably first rate then; I saw many films there.

I would walk east about half a mile on W. Wilson to Clark St. to my job. Because of the oncoming blight on W. Wilson, however, plus the L station being a reluctant host to many drinkers hanging about, the street began to deteriorate before the theater. Also, up to about 1960 there was a first rate diner, with highly lit chandeliers that really lit the southwest corner of Clark St. and Wilson (can’t recall the name). It was constantly packed; then the proprietors, shortly after having renovated it, closed it and that was the end of the diner, and the corner.

Anyway, W. Wilson deteriorated then for a block or two west of Clark St. and even east of Clark where a burlesque theater was going strong in the mid-60s, a half block east on the south side of the street. (I don’t know the name of that theater, or what it was in the past, if anything.)

Some of the apt. hotels in the area, especially south of Wilson, began to rent to drinkers who essentially lived on state support, and the environment they created permeated W. Wilson. Nothwithstanding, the area near the Uptown Theater a block or two north still drew a neighborhood movie crowd.

I stopped attending films at the De Luxe by probably 1963-64; the neighborhood had deteriorated rapidly by 1965. It is true about transient workers settling in the immediate neighborhood of the De Luxe from Appalachia, and those who stayed, sometimes contributed to the drinking environment. I once took a taxi driven by a former governor of WVA, who worked from that L Station, who had left his career due to alcoholism and migrated to this area of Chicago. He had been identified to some in the area (I began the great adventure of life, listening to the stories of people while clerking at F. W. Woolworth). Then, a WVA traveler took his taxi one day, thought he had rediscovered him, reported it all to the newspaper, and the taxi driver/governor quit driving, and shortly afterward died. A little De Luxe atmosphere.

SPearce commented about Chicago Theatre on Feb 3, 2008 at 10:13 pm

In 1958 or ‘59 (correct me if I’m wrong) Warner Bros. brought to the Chicago Theater for, I think, only one day, the full panoply of the stars from essentially all of its hit TV series then to each walk on and say a few words to the audience prior to the screening of, I believe, “The Young Philadelphians.” In fact, they had a showcase bus out front to suggest it was a “busload of stars” though I doubt they actually arrived on the bus; don’t know.

At that time Warners TV seemed to have every hit show on TV. I think this program included Jack Kelly (James Garner had already left the Maverick series, which was the biggest and an early hit for Warners, which started the ball roling) plus innumerable others (there must be records somewhere). There are some stars I think were there, but don’t want to name them and be wrong.

The two biggest stars publicized to be there were Connie Stevens featured as singer “Cricket” in “77 Sunset Strip,” and Edd Byrnes, a hit newcomer in the same series, who acted a valet at the nightclub where Connie sang; he being “Kookie,” who was always seen combing his pompadour (later memorialized in the tune, “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb”). Many students were primed to go to the Loop for that one, including me.

Shortly before the show date, the Press carried the story that all of these new stars and starlets were in contract negotiations fighting for higher pay, including Connie Stevens and Edd Byrnes, and would only be in the show if they had signed their contracts. All eventually had but Connie Stevens and Edd Byrnes. A day or two before the show, Connie signed her contract in Hollywood and it was announced she would come to Chicago, but Edd Byrnes did not. Still the young audience held out hope.

The TV stars appeared as a cavalcade, outfitted as appropriate for young stars and starlets then, walked across the stage, stopped and said “Hello, I’m , and I hope you will watch me in ,” and some engaged in a little real Q & A, and then moved on. They were all wonderful, they did what they were supposed to do, and actually seemed happy to be there. Connie, absent Edd Byrnes, was considered the leading star there, and she was introduced last. She was just like “Cricket” and herself, was very cute, with her usual French twist hairdo, and even was supposed to sing a little song.

I was sitting pretty close to the front of the stage, maybe Center between Rows 3 and 5. Connie came out and tried to chat (they were really trying to give us our monies worth), and the audience kept shouting at, and imploring her, “Where’s Kookie, where’s Kookie?” She was very commiserating with the young girls, and said things like, “I know, I know; he couldn’t be here; you wanted to see him, and he would like to be here, but he can’t.” She would never say it was about the money. She answered other questions, but they kept coming back to “Kookie.” She even tried to sing her cute song. It was a standard pop tune, something like “Sunny Side of the Street,” and sadly for Connie, the audience really wasn’t attentive to her. I felt a little sorry for her because I thought she really wanted to sing; maybe the presentation actually was to be a set off for her to develop her singing career more then, I don’t know. Anyway, it didn’t work that day. But the performers were all cheered greatly. They seemed quite happy with the response from the audience.

The Warners movie was a melodrama featuring beautiful young people, including Paul Newman.

I am simply drawing on memory and this is the best I can remember it; but it was at the Chicago Theater. I was there with a schoolmate. Her older brother was required to accompany us to this because her family didn’t think she (and I) should be unaccompanied for the stage show! He, decidedly, was not interested in any of this, I thought. He was only required to be there for the stage show, and when that ended, he said to us, “Okay, I was only supposed to stay with you for the stage show,” and left. Then I decided not to stay for the movie then, and I think we all returned to the North side on our own.

SPearce commented about Carnegie Theatre on Feb 3, 2008 at 8:52 pm

I am a little surprised in the contributed introductory summary that Rush St. is first described as once being notorious for “seedy nightclubs.” True, but it had a history before that. Before they were “seedy,” Rush St. was notable in America for first rate night clubs; what became the flagship (albeit by default) was the Chez Paree, where many headliners performed up and through the ‘50s and, if I remember, into the '60s. Comedian Danny Thomas made it a point to always mention the Chez Paree itself in his act and his television series, giving it publicity. Comedians tended to perform there toward the end of its heyday, while musicians performed in other clubs. The history of “Rush Street” per se began earlier, and encompassed an earlier notable night club period.

SPearce commented about McVickers Theater on Feb 1, 2008 at 11:31 pm

Thank you. I remember Claudia Cassidy; the other name is not familiar to me.

SPearce commented about Calo Theatre on Feb 1, 2008 at 3:06 pm

I would have had to pass this building twice a day, Mon-Fri, from Sept. 1959 to June 1963, riding up/down Clark St. to attend Senn H.S. at 5900 Glenwood. I stepped off the Clark St. bus and picked it up again to head south at about 5900 or 6000 Clark St. and I do not recall this theater building as such, but I must have seen it daily. I can’t say I remember the name now either, which evidently means “Spanish Gypsy.” However, the tale of another gangster being shot a la Dillinger at a theater in that neighborhood does rings a bell; another bus rider may have mentioned that. The white terra cotta facade, and the musician or cherub figure above the doorway with musical instruments, does seem faintly familiar. I would think that there was no functioning Calo theater there during this time period though. I don’t recall the bowling alley either. I believe Andersonville was referenced also as the “Little Sweden” neighborhood. And it really was.

This theater has a lovely open Beaux Arts facade. My understanding is that Chicago strongly contributed to the development of Beaux Arts. Is there any record of whether this theater was utilized for vaudeville to any extent in its first 15 years or so (as was the Century further south at Diversey)?

SPearce commented about Buckingham Theatre on Jan 31, 2008 at 8:51 pm

By the 1960s it was easy to walk past the Buckingham (note the postcard Lost Memory link of May 1, 2007), with its narrow storefront entrance so similar to the other storefronts along the block, and, if not looking for it, miss the Buckingham Theater entirely. The postcard does justice to the block as I recall it; though it might be representational of 40-50 years earlier.

I do recall seeing films there as late as 1967. Remarkably, it screened some fine films (I wondered how), competitive with many theaters then (perhaps owned by a substantial chain). This made it a viable option in choosing a theater in the area though it wasn’t at all a showcase. It never seemed to have a concentrated audience, i.e., groups and couples. Teenagers, or singles tended to make up the audience, as I recall. It was surprising to me it never hinted of closing in those years. Every once in awhile one would look through the newspapers to see what was playing at movie houses in the area, and be surprised that the Buckingham, small and indescript though it was, always seemed to be offering worthy choices.

This was a residual neighborhood theater but Clark Street hosted high vehicle traffic then, especially when the Cubs were playing at Wrigley Field down the street. There was also an active neighborhood market along this street. It was a neighborhood where Clark St., though not a wide street, but a long one on the north side of Chicago, became too fast for it; traffic sped along and it wasn’t appealing for pedestrians to cross it, or stroll.

On the west side of Clark St., was an old immigrant community where grandparents still owned their old houses but their children were grown and gone in the main. Yes, there were some young families; it was an almost still neighborhood, in transition. Behind the theater in the neighborhood on the east were likely to be found more singles and young couples. Clark St. separated two distinct neighborhoods there, and the Buckingham may have served more the neighborhood behind it to the east.

The Buckingham didn’t inform the street then because it was so easy to miss. I am not sure that the vertical sign of the theater was in place. I think there was some type of marquee, but am not sure it was as extensive as that in the postcard. Unless you were walking along looking for the entrance, you could miss the Buckingham (even with its long name). Evidently it still probably had a longer life than anyone would have imagined for it.

When I was a teenager, I left the Buckingham Theater one Sunday afternoon alone; it had started pouring rain while I was inside. Without an umbrella, I waited and waited for a bus and none came. It was clear a Cubs game had just ended, and traffic taking spectators home sped along Clark St. I started to look for a taxi, and at that moment one pulled over, and a woman, whom I never saw before or since, invited me to get in out of the rain and ride north with her since she was already heading in that direction. She told me she attended all the Cubs home games she could, usually drove but didn’t that day, and had just “gotten lucky on a bet” so that was the way she invited me to ride as far as I needed on her route home. I hesitated, (this was dangerous, and I never came close to doing such a thing before or after), but she insisted and said it was a public taxi; and I ended up accepting the ride. She talked about the Cubs with me and the taxi driver, and I arrived home none the worse for the rain. My Buckingham Theater story, and a kind of Chicago story, I think, for that time.

SPearce commented about McVickers Theater on Jan 30, 2008 at 7:26 pm

REndres: I don’t know about the McClurg Court Theater, past my Chicago time. I don’t think I was ever in the McVickers again after “Do Re Mi” (or wanted to be for a while, probably). I remember reading in the newspaper/hearing on the news that the ship used in the “Windjammer” was in Chicago – there was alot of publicity about that. I knew of “Windjammer,” but I don’t remember if I saw it, sort of think I did, or maybe could have seen a trailer of it in another theater. But I am becoming verrrry seasick and see this ship roiling on the water. I may have seen it and left the theater early. I vaguely recall someone telling me once that if I had seen “Windjammer,” I would remember it.

BWChicago: I was remiss earlier. Thank you for taking the time to share the detailed quoted material from the Tribune critics of “Do Re Mi” and the McVickers remodel in ‘62. I seem to recall those reviews and that being the flavor of them. Do you have the name of the critic who wrote the first, soft review? Just curious.

SPearce commented about McVickers Theater on Jan 30, 2008 at 4:45 pm

The apple often doesn’t fall far from the tree in the Chicago area. Do those of you who are historians on some of these CT sites have a documentary to screen on Chicago movie palaces, or even a Power Point slide show? I would think that presenting something like that at Chicago area “retirement” sites for a concentrated audience would elicit precious remembrances to add to the record. I say that because I’m looking for remembrances from the ‘30s and '40s to trigger my own memories of a generation later, and wish there were more set out. Maybe you have done that already? Graduate students?

SPearce commented about McVickers Theater on Jan 30, 2008 at 10:34 am

Thank you for the memory check. This causes me to recall that, yes, there were curtains draped around the walls, which I took to be an additional patchwork method to treat the acoustical problem. Perhaps absorb some of the hollowness or wandering echos, or stabilize what could be heard from the actors on stage. There was also a young romantic couple in the plot who sang and their whole purpose in the plot suffered because of the sound problems.

I recall also some sort of newspaper chatter of the controversy over Phil Silvers, especially, and Nancy Walker, as traditional stage professionals, not wanting to be miked – indicating they felt they should be heard without mikes and were trying to address that problem with their own skills; but they eventually had to comply with the circumstances and wear the mikes. At one point, I think Phil Silvers insisted he wasn’t going to do it, and Nancy Walker was; then he finally acquiesced.

SPearce commented about McVickers Theater on Jan 30, 2008 at 12:19 am

Was not the McVickers remodeled into a legitimate theater for a short time in the early ‘60s? I thought it was there I saw Phil Silvers and Nancy Walker perform in a play that debuted the McVickers as a playhouse. The acoustics were the worst I have ever come across; and they had been rushing to open this booked play on time. With that, they still held it back a couple of days. I had tickets for the first week because at that time I would go anywhere to see Phil Silvers or Nancy Walker together or as a single. I could not make out one single word Phil Silvers spoke, and it was almost the same for Nancy Walker. During the show they were figuring it out, and Nancy Walker finally just stopped and spoke the words verrry sloooowly. The play was something about him being an inveterate gambler who was going to go back to gambling one more time on some sure thing. The Press went somewhat easy on the acoustic situation – didn’t really pre-warn the audiences. I think the play then went on to NYC. I think this theater failed as a legitimate playhouse.

Also wasn’t one of the McVickers the site where vaudeville performer Eddie Foy calmed the audience during a fire; and was credited with saving so many lives?

SPearce commented about Vogue Theatre on Jan 29, 2008 at 8:05 pm

CORRECTION to the above comment about how to access the projection booth at the Vogue. It seems there was a stairwell on the right side of the foyer in front of the entry doors at the right end that led up to the booth. The steps ran up along the wall that turned right to become the corridor. I think there was some sort of stairwell or door that led up to the ballroom on the left side of the concession stand though. Best remembrance.

SPearce commented about Stockton Holiday Cinema 8 on Jan 22, 2008 at 10:18 am

Ret. AKC(NAC) Bob Jensen
Thank you. Sometime in the early Spring of 1955 seems about right for my viewing of it; it had already been playing about a month or so in San Francisco.

SPearce commented about Bob Hope Theatre on Jan 21, 2008 at 9:31 pm

Stockton is my home town. I left in 1956 at the age of 10. From my residential addresses then, my family would walk downtown to the “picture shows” in the evening or on Saturday. We usually approached from the east end of Main Street or sometimes took a bus and disembarked at the east end of the street.

Main Street contained a row of movie theaters down to the Fox (and possibly around the corner; not sure), they were all lit up at night and I suppose resembled a smaller version of what would have been a Broadway of movie theaters in Stockton. To a child who only had seen one city (except for San Francisco or Sacramento), it was what I thought was a typical smaller city. I did not know I was incorrect about that. Of course, the theaters didn’t seem small to me, and probably weren’t.

Stockton evidently is now actually identified as a tiny town version of a larger city. Its houses and buildings are smaller but as detailed in scale and in the preferred architectural styles of what would have been seen in larger cities. I thought the interiors of businesses then (banks and office buildings)were temples of beauty, with so much brass and marble. Brass made up some of the trim, plus there were other design details.

When we arrived downtown, we started to walk west on Main St., strolling by the movie theaters, sometimes crossing the street to the south, then back to the north, viewing the offerings and deciding which show we would see. I don’t remember anyone looking in a newspaper to learn what was playing beforehand, or if so, we still didn’t commit until we reached the picture show. (I am trying to use the vernacular of the time; I don’t think I ever heard the word “theater” employed to reference “picture shows” until I moved east.) We looked at the posters in the display windows, or took in the marquee, or noted what people coming out or going in were saying about the movie, before we would commit to buying a ticket. Then we would make up our minds. It seemed that was what everyone did then.

The point was, with this method, I don’t think we ever really made it to the west end of Main Street to the Fox but for a time or two by the time I was nine; unless I was taken there as an infant. There were always plenty of first rate shows; sometimes double features, to choose from, before we reached the end of the street. Came close a couple of times. Yes, I had heard the Fox was beautiful, or one of the most beautiful of the shows in Stockton.

So when I was nine or so, and there was a major feature film everyone wanted to see and we knew it was at the Fox, and I saw it, I remember thinking about the Fox, “This really is beautiful; maybe the most beautiful picture show on the street, but not my favorite, as others up the street were more familiar to me. Don’t remember the film I saw then. The Fox was, indeed, a richer, more historically ornate style than the others, I thought.

My problem now is that I do not remember the names of all of those other pictures shows up Main Street; just that they were there, both sides of the street and there were many of them and I saw many movies in them. (There were picture shows on the next street north too, which were low cost, and some showed triple features in the ‘50s; families could still feel comfortable in them. I remember seeing “Don’t Bother To Knock,” as the third film on a triple bill and the psychotic blond woman (Marilyn Monroe) scared me out of my wits (no doubt I related to the child in the film whom she almost kills), so that I never forgot that movie (pretty good critique, No?)

On Main Street I remember that I could not talk my father into taking me to see a Ma and Pa Kettle film (I had already seen it once), so we settled on “Winchester 73” with Jimmy Stewart. Also remember seeing High Noon, My Darling Clementine, Frances the Talking Mule pix, Martin & Lewis, Betty Hutton films and many more – none at the Fox; I just don’t remember which theaters by name.

I would add as to another theater on Main Street that was either constructed or, I think, remodeled about ‘53 or '54, the thing about it was that it reopened containing a Loge, which was a big deal in the advertising then, and everyone talked about it. Everyone wanted to go there to see the “Loge.” People could sit in the Loge and the armrests contained ashtrays, and they could smoke while they watched the movie. You didn’t even have to smoke, as the Loge seating was appealing in itself; it seemed more expansive, like first class on an airliner. It was, I suppose, designed in a type of 1950s moderne, but you couldn’t really see it in the dark. It was comfortable and in good taste as patrons expected first rate picture shows to be. Everyone liked that theater when it reopened, and it always did good business. I think it might have contained some wood paneling; didn’t look anything like a 1920s style movie house, which was not a common style in those Stockton theaters on Main Street by the time I was going to movies there. The shows were beautiful but of a West Coast vernacular. They emphasized values different from what I would see in the splendid heavy ornateness of movie houses in the Middle West a few years later.

Upon entering the house you would turn to the side aisles and walk up a number of steps to the Loge and turn in. I don’t remember if once at the Loge landing, you could then walk forward, back down steps to the lower level and seating there. Maybe it was blocked off.

The only other comment I can add here is that I was born shortly after WWII. In those days, Stockton was full of ex servicemen and others relocating there, and there was a shortage of proper housing. Whole other story. People were making do in cramped quarters everywhere. Thus, that was another motivation to spend warm evenings after work, if not sitting outside on the steps, or inside listening to the radio, if one could, downtown going to picture shows. There was a lot of pedestrian traffic in downtown Stockton then; lots of “bars” including a fair number of cocktail lounges, and diners; all of a mood, plus the courthouse was down close to the Fox. A film crew came up from Hollywood to film, and had advertised in the newspaper for locals to come out that night and stand as a crowd for a film (for a newsreel footage sequence). There were no stars in the scene; although I believed I had seen Mercedes McCambridge there. We had been to a movie and coming back, with me being held by mother, stood at the back of the crowd being filmed for possible use in the movie about Huey Long, which was “All The Kings Men,” and it won an academy award too.

SPearce commented about Stockton Holiday Cinema 8 on Jan 21, 2008 at 7:41 pm

My understanding is that the first full length public Cinerama film for the general audience was “Cinerama Holiday,” which I, as a school child in my home town of Stockton, was taken by arrangement through the school on a train field trip to see in San Francisco (I don’t remember which theater there) probably in 1955 or ‘54. I have a faint recollection of hearing of such a theater planned for Stockton, but it is very faint.

Being older and wiser now, and knowing how many theaters were located in Stockton on the main strip in the ‘50s (a tiny version of a Broadway of picture shows, to a child’s eyes), I suspect now many were constructed by Los Angeles studios, to preview their own films. I am also wondering if there was a link from the field trip for the students (which came up rather suddenly, out of the blue) to any number of promotional ideas — accustom the children to Cinerama; build a Cinerama theater in Stockton, and base it on a population accustomed to patronizing the many already established “picture shows.” I have a faint remembrance that was what this was about. My recollection was in 1956 the population was about 80-90,000. It was considered then to be the third largest city in the San Joaquin or larger valley.

I don’t remember this theater, although it was not in my part of town, from which I would have walked downtown with others, or taken the bus to see movies downtown, or occasionally attend a drive-in.

SPearce commented about Century Centre Cinema on Jan 19, 2008 at 9:18 pm

Other than the Vogue Theater at Broadway and Grace St., the Century from 1956 til it became a store front, is the one other theater in Chicago I attended with some regularity that, as to memorializing, I think I can add at least a feeling, or sentiment. In fact, after first discovering it in the late ‘50s, I would go out of my way to take the bus south to this theater if I had a choice (if a feature was playing there and at one of the other three big theaters further north) because I felt I wanted to support by my patronage its beauty outside, and, especially, inside, as well as its status in a neighborhood in decline. The theater seemed vulnerable then, and indeed, it was so. There was a suggestion, especially if one understood Chicago then, that a bulldozer could be brought in at any time to take it down, while one’s head was turned, and while no one looked or cared enough about it to stop it. People didn’t talk to each other much about the beauty of these theaters; they were still in a mode of supposedly taking them for granted, at least in public.

(This period predated the debacle of the demolition of the Garrick Theater in the Loop, which I also remember.) The lack of respect, let alone aesthetic intellect, driving that decision marshalled the preservation forces against the scariness of the loss of those palaces and the soul memory they expressed.

The Century was a big theater and not that easy to fill, but I recall it had pretty good houses on some occasions, including Saturdays in the late ‘50s. So, if it was a choice between the Century and say the Uptown or Granada, which were in solid, vibrant neighborhoods then, I felt that I should, and wanted to, attend the Century for those reasons. It was an anomaly to me then that such a beautiful theater could exist in such a nondescript neighborhood clearly becoming blighted. I clearly didn’t have enough information to understand the progression.

I never knew then that it was an Orpheum Vaudeville house either, which now explains pretty much its time period, purpose, and everything about it to me. I knew I was in something of value; I didn’t know why! As an Orpheum house, it makes sense as a showcase I guess even in a select neighborhood. With the other neighborhoods to the north, and just west of the Lake Shore, stretching north along the strip, it must have been fabulous to attend shows in these palaces in the 1920s-40s.

In my teen years, I trained myself to remember (for no reason, other than that I thought it might be necessary one day to remember some of the names of these movie palaces on the north side of Chicago – it was a constant disturbing sense of a threat to what they stood for, no less than the structures) the names of the Uptown, Granada and Century. I used to repeat them, “Uptown, Granada and Century,” so I would never forget them. Most people link the Riviera with the other two, I have read, and they are closer together. I remember the name of the Riviera, and lived near it, but I just can’t recall the theater, or may have some of it blended into either the Uptown or the Granada.

I wanted always to include the beautiful Century in my memory as it seemed the most vulnerable by location then. Glad to learn it hasn’t been destroyed at least as to the facade. From the photos, the neighborhood appears vibrant once again also. (There was a small Italian/Greek restaurant on the next street east (up from the street light and pedestrians in one of the night photos) that served fabulous Chicken Vesuvio – stayed in business a long time.

My recollection of the Century is that the interior furnishings did not have as heavy a feel, or did not seem so, as those in the Granada or the Uptown. My memory, though it is vague as to the details, suggests a more open, expansive feeling especially throughout the foyers which seemed to have columns and were wide holding areas. There is a hint of that in the facade as well. I am not quite sure if the details were Egyptian, Oriental or something else now. One walked to the interior doors to the house through a series of broad, columned carpeted areas. These areas were meant to hold a lot of patrons, including between shows. Just outside the first set of doors, I don’t know why, but I seem to remember there being something there about a “tiger;” either it was contained in a wall trapping, or a portrait or sculpture, or it was carved into something. I believe I spent more time studying the interior design of this theater than, say, the Granada. If there was a tiger motif there, that would cause me to suspect the interior design was more “Indian.” Again, it might be in another north side theater, and I may not have it exactly correct, but that is what I remember now.

My recollection is that light colors were used. It seems to me there was light marble wherever the designer chose to have it as well, but I might be incorrect about that. It was definitely pre-art deco or art nouveau, hearkening more to the silent movie era type of set furnishings, but always a light mood and expansive in feeling.

I don’t recall the interior of the theater, though I was there many times, except that it seemed to be large and arked broadly.

In the photos, I look at the facade, and I look at the modern beautiful new interior of the ‘plex, and, for whatever reason, it is the facade that does it for me, plus the photos of the vital street scene in the neighborhood at night.

Would that it could have been saved completely; I just have to say that! But it was a storefront in the ‘60s then closed as a theater. I even think men’s suits were sold in the foyer; or maybe it was just clothing in general.

Is there a place in Chicago, where the old movie palace interior adornments are sent, or an auction house through which they were sold? Does anyone know what happened to the interior design pieces of the Century? Or was it all carted away as junk?

SPearce commented about Vogue Theatre on Jan 13, 2008 at 6:53 pm

Now that you mention it,

Although I was 10-11 years old when I attended the Vogue, and was still riding the bus up Broadway when I was 12 years old or so through this area, I always took note of the Vogue as I passed by. I think the post war or earlier generations were bonded to these movie houses because of the personal experiences of feeling catered to and that they were temples of sorts that encouraged you to release your imagination. I had grown up in California, and my town had many little “picture shows” that definitely did have architectural design to them also, and I had been tempered to being sensitive to the specific design of the interiors of individual theaters.

This was the first movie house I was ever in in Chicago. I took the Vogue in as I took in the block between Grace and Irving Park Rd on Broadway. (The Marigold Arena was of a different and later vintage.)

Now that you mention it, the name “The Chateau Apartments” comes back to me. And the word “Chateau” was used on a number of shops and other businesses along Broadway, and I think, other apt. bldgs. east or west of Broadway here. That block was constructed on the Chateau (French and semi Austrian type) theme, not excessively, but distinctly; maybe Helene told me that. Also as you turned west on Irving Park Rd. on the south side of the street were shops in the basements of the row houses; the second or third was Helene’s Studio of Dance.

I think it was said that somebody had plans to more extensively develop that neighborhood, make it an upscale gentry area, but before it could be accomplished (and they ran short of funds), neighborhoods further north outpaced it in development, bigger movie palaces were constructed farther north, and people were starting to move, truncating the development of the Vogue Theater Chateau living area. There were rowhouses and flats one block west. It had some pretensions to haute couture.

I do not remember the specific interior design of the Vogue, but some of it is coming back; it was pretty and nicely designed to follow the French theme in an understated neighborhood movie house type way. The ticket booth was in the center of the entry at the sidewalk. As one entered, I think the concession stand was more to the left facing the street. I do think it was carpeted nicely, not Granada level, but it was nice carpet because it started out to be modestly upscale. The customers were still being catered to. The foyer was not elaborate, as I recall. To the east was Lakeshore Drive and those addresses were still desirable.

There was a proper curtain on the stage, which opened and closed. The way I remember the inside of the house is that there was a break in the seats horizontally back about 8-12 rows from the front row. I think there were three segments of seating (columns front to back), if not four; so there were two interior aisles. I don’t remember if there were side aisles along the walls.

There was something in the Vogue Theater about the lamps or lighting; I am trying to remember it. In the foyer, right of the concession stand was an open space, then a little right was a corridor. On the back wall of the corridor were some sconces, and it may have been that the back wall arced in a bit as it went along, and/or there was a slight rise in the corridor as one proceeded along; not sure. The corridor was not wide. You entered the house through any of maybe three or four doors on the west. Inside along the side walls were the same type of sconces as in the corridor, if I remember correctly. I am not sure if the sconces extended along the back wall inside the house; it’s a possibility. I do think originally there was a sense of continuity to the interior Vogue Theater design to match the neighborhood French design, but they kept it understated. The Vogue was not without a quality and a theme of its own. I seem to recall that lit sconces had a yellow effect or glow.

I know that I always liked to sit in the second or third row center back from the open cross aisle. This was a little forward of perfectly centered, maybe there were 12 rows in the back half of the house, maybe more. I am not sure if there was a balcony of seats above, nor can I distinctly remember if there was a discrete stairwell in the foyer to the left of the concession stand. Not one to the right anyway.

I am unsure in my memory how tall a building the Vogue Theater itself was; whether there was a second level or enough height to accomodate a balcony inside. Maybe it was just the project booth above the back wall. For some reason, and I could be incorrect, but I think the lighting effect extended to one or more modest but pretty chandeliers over the front bank of rows. This theater was designed to hold its own in what had once been a specialty neighborhood. I don’t remember any niches and corniches present.

I do remember the entrance door to the south of the theater that led up a flight of stairs to a dancehall above. As we came out of the theater at night after dark, we would turn right toward the south to turn the corner on Grace, and you could hear voices and laughter and music above and just various sounds back then that gave the street some pedestrian life. Sometimes the windows in the dancehall were open; there was little air conditioning then, so it was a louder sound, esp. on Saturday nights.

I don’t think children were quite sure at that stage just what element held sway in the dancehall. Later, my memory is that the movie house was closed but the dance hall was still active and you could tell that as you rode past on the bus. Remember the Aragon was a famous northside ballroom, further north. And beginning in the ‘20s, if not earlier, there were other dancehalls, all proper, in some number, though not as large as the Aragon. Then in a few years, I think the dance hall fell off. I remember hearing of the fire, and seeing the structure after it was closed. I don’t think the Vogue theater came down right away, but it eventually did; I asked about it.

If you can get into the history of the neighborhood you may learn more about the Vogue Theater itself in its heyday. That is about all I can remember now.