Stork Theater

8410 Lorain Avenue,
Cleveland, OH 44102

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Stork Theater

This Cleveland west side theater was opened by 1926. It was closed in the late-1940’s or maybe 1950. After that the lobby was used as a auto repair shop, but the theater marquee and vertical were still in place.

Contributed by Chas Springer

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 25, 2005 at 7:31 am

Listed in Film Daily Yearbooks with varying seating capacities; 1941=600, 1943=500 and 1950=700.

Toby on July 25, 2005 at 2:52 pm

I believe the auto shop is still there today, although the building today looks like nothing closely resembling a theatre.

Toby on August 1, 2005 at 4:23 pm

I drove by that address…apparently the original theatre building was demolished and replaced by a garage-when this was done I don’t know offhand. I know that an auto repair shop and a used car lot are at West 85th and Lorain Ave. now.

drecords on March 1, 2007 at 10:05 am

And, it was a costume shop for a short time in the late 50’s, early 60’s.

panngpeter on August 5, 2014 at 3:31 pm

My husband told me about The Stork. I created this “Memory Cache” to pass on to our grandchildren.

The Stork Theater p.a.bees

“I laid on my bed that night horror-struck and unable to move.” George sighed. “It was a hot night, summer, probably 1951 or ’52. I was all alone in the upstairs bedroom at my grandparent’s home on Lorain Street.” Invited by the twilight we floated off the screened-in porch and passed back in time, he and I. A dog’s bark reverse-wound the clock’s key and a story was ticked into consciousness by the leg-rub of a cricket. “Going to sleep when the evening’s light was still in the sky was hard enough.” My grown-up George said. “It was especially hard for a ten-year-old boy.” I murmured an ascent. The 1950’s saw the rise of modern, strip shopping centers and shiny, bright grocery stories. On Lorain Street in Cleveland, Ohio it could as easily have been twenty or thirty years earlier. People had not changed their habit of choosing the best produce and freshest chickens at open air markets. Neighbors sat on front porches at night the same as the generations before them. Men and a few women smoked cigarettes and let the red-tipped glow penetrate the evening’s darkness. They waited for their house to cool down after supper, or they watered their lawns, or they chatted-up neighbors who passed.
Young George stayed over at his grandparents’ house often. His bedroom was upstairs; two open casement windows looked down to the small scrabble of front yard he knew well and directly across Lorain Street to The Stork Theater. He lay on his back on grandma’s smooth, white, cotton sheet; hot in summer’s swelter.
“I laid there with my hands ready to clap over my ears. I remember being perfectly still, petrified even. You see, with The Stork directly across the street I could hear everything. The herald, the blare, and the rumble that emanated from the open windows of the theater wafted right across the street and into my room. No one had air-conditioning back then. Not even the theaters, yet. They had windows high up near the ceiling and they opened them on summer nights to let the hot air escape. Noise rose in the theater with the spiraling heat and was swept across the street and into my room as if I had invited it. I was afraid to keep my eyes open and afraid more to close them.” Tinsel town make-believe spewed from The Stork on that humid night like steam from a kettle. The resonance was extraordinarily real to the ten-year-old boy who heard the recorded orchestra’s discharge, the stomach-churning, screen screams, and din and clamor of frightened men. Going to sleep, on that particular night, while The Stork announced its late show presentation, was impossible.
During the day war reports brought new anxieties to the adults. Anti-Communist talk was heard in the bars and the mills on lunch breaks. The planet was just recovering from WWII when the United States plunged itself into another Asian war, Korea. The adults’ fears, suspicions, and anger became the children’s burden, too.
George and his buddies played war. During the day they dove into foxhole ditches and sniped with imaginary bullets at the enemy. They hid behind the giant, lilac bushes in their yards and died imaginary deaths in the dirt driveways. Children listened with their families to static radio newscasts that talked of atomic bomb aftermaths, scorched skin, pussy sores, and mad scientists. “Anything could happen to us and we were sure that it might.” George took a sip of wine and settled deeper into the wicker chair. “The Stork was a small mom-and-pop movie theater at West 85th and Lorain Streets. Long-gone now. I think a used-car dealer moved into the building and lot. Grandpa took me to see a movie every week.” The Stork was colossal to a small boy, but comfortable in the way new clothes seem right once they are smudged a bit. It had a cavernous showing-room with a ceiling as high as his grandparent’s second floor bedroom. The smirchiness inside the showing-room became the crepuscular dark when the lights went out. For a few seconds before the newsreel started its inky black was foreboding; it provoked and aroused the young boy. He felt the nettle of anxiousness, the hyped-up pock of delirium as he waited.
“Once the screen flickered to life it was just my grandpa and me in the room. Everything and everyone around us disappeared as our eyes locked onto the screen.” He and his grandfather sat through the newsreels, each for their own benefit. Young George watched the soldiers burst over a ridge or through a jungle thickness and caught the flashes of machine gun fire. He envisioned the enemy dying in grand displays with arms thrown akimbo and bloodied limbs. At the end he looked sideways to see his grandfather’s frozen face and sad eyes. His grandfather had searched the intermittent troop scenes for men he knew.
When the projectionist changed reels George looked up into the beam of light. He saw the dust particles that rose from the scratchy material on the theater seats. George breathed in the musty odors and with each breath his mind fantasized the unpredictable events that would flash upon the screen; whose whispers, hearty laughs, sword fight thrusts, cries for help, ambush gunshots, and words of passion he would hear.
Then, with fanfare, the main feature absorbed them both. RKO put out up to forty movies a year in the early fifties. The other moving picture giants did the same; dramas, romantic comedies, musicals, westerns, farces, and science fiction thrillers. Going to the theater was still frugal entertainment for adults and an afternoon’s prize to a child. George and his grandfather had been coming to The Stork for as long as he could remember.
“Please, Grandpa, please.” He begged to see The Thing from Another World. He wanted to be one of the first boys in his cadre to see it. They had been teased for weeks by the full-color, movie posters that hung just inside the lobby entrance. “Yes, siree. We’ll go to the matinee. All right, Georgie?”
The audience sat spellbound at the early, afternoon showing. It was science fiction in its prime on the big screen. Even the idea of space travel was as foreign to George as the foreboding landscape of the Arctic depicted in the movie. The Stork’s flat screen became a visceral diorama that threw young George, mind and body, into the scenes.
The Thing was a mixture of tangled, green plant-life and freakish-alien concept. An unrecognizable James Arness was typecast as the terrorizing and unstoppable being; a being that was a plant, but needed human blood to survive. It was a mutiny of mankind, a betrayal of all that the audience knew.
“I remember sitting low in my movie seat. I remember covering my eyes with my fingers a couple of times. I don’t remember much else about the movie, just about what happened later that night. Alone in my room.” Tucked into bed he heard the music that settled everyone into their seats for the evening viewing. He imagined the moviegoers as they opened their boxes of candy. The newsreel spun and the patriotic-band-music thumped. It was accompanied by the muffled explosions of big guns. George put a hand to his heart and felt a rhythm that matched the score. He knew they were at the part of the newsreel where flashes of gunpowder lit Korean battle scenes. Scenes with trees that were not like the maples and oaks around his home. Scenes of warships with men who looked like his teenaged cousins.
In the lull, as the projectionist changed reels, George listened for downstairs sounds. He strained to hear the static of the radio and the squeak of his grandfather’s rocker on the wood, porch floor.
“I kept repeating to myself. “You are ten years old. You saw the movie. Grandpa said it was just make-believe.” He heard the neighbor’s dog, Muffin, bark. The crickets chirped the temperature. He tried to distract himself by counting the chirps in fourteen seconds. He knew that if he added that number to forty he would know how hot it was. The crickets were chirping too fast for him to count. It was hot. “I knew what came next. There was no delaying the inevitable.” It was the RKO signature herald. The staccato trumpet of the dots and dashes being morse-coded to the far corners of the earth evoked the globe, the radio antenna that reached miles into space, and the signal flashes emanating from it that he had seen so many times at the start of movies. During the day he imagined that very radio tower really existed someplace out West called Hollywood, California. During the day, it beckoned him in the dark theater. He wanted to know what those radio beams would bring to the screen. Tonight, alone in his room, a shiver zig-zagged down his spine and he buried himself further into the mattress. He knew what it meant. Some nights of the summer when he stayed with his grandparents he drifted off to melodious tunes. The scores of Show Boat, Man in the White Suit, and Love Nest lulled him to sleep. He remembered the jokes and slapstick humor from the matinee as evening moviegoers laughed at Abbot and Costello Meet the Invisible Man.
“I laughed with them until I fell asleep.”
The night of The Thing from Another World he lay, supine and pressed to the bed, covered with a sheet of little defense. The steam of sound and scintillation carried on the summer air from The Stork and into his second-floor bedroom like a run-a-way train.
“I pulled the sheet up to my neck and waited. I heard the explosive sounds that announced the army had blown up the alien spaceship found frozen in the ice.” The spaceship that crashed fifty feet across the street from his bedroom. The scientists and the army found The Thing’s body frozen in the ice. They hacked the chunk free and moved it to the base. It was secured in a warehouse with a guard to watch it. The guard blunderingly thawed it out with an electric blanket. The Thing attacked.
George strained his ears to hear what he did not want to hear. A crescendo of music announced that one of The Thing’s arms had been torn off at the elbow in a skirmish with its captors. He knew from the composition of low, slow notes when the mad scientist was trying to grow specimens of The Thing and keep his experiments hidden from the others. “It was Hitler reincarnated.” George winced and was silent for a minute.
Young George was cued from the orchestra’s intense beat of timpani and blare of horn, the bang of shots fired, and shouts of the doomed. Like black crows those sounds spun in the updrafts that escaped from the theater’s high windows, flew across Lorain Street into his room, and beat their wings against his bedroom walls. The Thing smashed the barricades and lumbered through the theater. The music roared and its ominous tones crowded his small, square bedroom.
The Thing was on the loose. None of the brave men could to stop it. They were flung asunder by The Thing’s great strength. The heroine screamed. A volley of shots were fired. The Thing crashed down the door of the theater and lumbered across Lorain Street toward a boy cowering in his bed. Night had crept in and sucked the light from his room. Shadows of tree branches, Thing-like, swayed on the walls. The monster climbed the rose trellis outside his window. The Thing reached its long green arms into his room to suck his blood dry. He imagined his grandfather’s strained face as he uselessly fired a machine gun to try and save him.
“I squeezed my eyes shut and forced myself to visualize the army electrocuting The Thing before it take over the world, before it could reach me.”
It ended. The music turned triumphant, but wary.
“My heart was pounding in my chest. I remembered the scene where the reporter sat calmly at the Arctic, base desk and filed his report.” It was late; the dog-walkers in our neighborhood were inside, now. The time-warp was over. It was 2011. The crickets had ceased rubbing their legs together.
With his fist up to his cheek in imitation of the reporter holding a phone receiver, my George, sixty years later and sitting on the porch with me, repeated the reporter’s words verbatim. “Watch the skies. Keep watching the skies.”
Grown-up George sighed again. “I miss my grandfather and The Stork.”

Hope you enjoy!

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