Commonwealth Amusement Company/Corporation

posted by dabutcher on April 25, 2006 at 9:46 am

I am trying to find out what happened to Commonwealth Amusement.

I am a former drive-in manager with them from the mid ‘70’s til '80. I was looking through a variety of search engines and could only find one reference to the company regarding the Rialto Theatre in Searcy, Ark from 1938.

I would like to contact some old friends and reminicse about the good old days, but if I can’t track down an entire company, people are probably going to be impossible!

Please let me know the fate of Commonwealth. I would greatly appreciate it.

Comments (74)

JoelWeide on April 25, 2006 at 1:47 pm

If you are refering the Commonwealth Amusement Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri. (Douglas Lightner etc.) it was sold to the Golan/Globus Group (Cannon Films) back in the late 1980’s, They completely dismatled the chain, including Mid-Continent Theatre Supply (equipment and concessions) for the cash flow, which was needed to finance their low budget films. All theatre were sold off, some still remain but now are apart of other chains. Some of course are closed for various reasons, I have no idea what became of the Ranch Mart 4 in Kansas City, but the Village Cinema 3 still is operating in Great Bend, Kansas, thru Walace Theatres of Oregon, all Wichita, Kansas theatres are long since menories, althought the Twin Lakes may still be standing, it’s closed, the Pawnee 4 and Crest were demolished. The last time I was on Wyondatte Street in downtown Kansas City, the home office building is still there,closed, very dusty, but the Commonwealth “crest” was still on the door, but that was some time ago. It once was a great theatre circuit that is now dotting the pages of this web site. Hopefully some of the frequenters of this site can assist you with better information than I.

rivest266 on April 25, 2006 at 3:14 pm

By 1990 the Commonwealth theatres ended up with United Artists, now part of the Regal Entertainment Group

JoelWeide on April 25, 2006 at 5:21 pm

I was just curious and I checked the Regal web site, it no longer lists the Bannister Mall 5, in Kansas City, Kansas which was a joint venture between Commonwealth and AMC, which the partnership did not pan out so AMC built the Bannister Square 6 across the street. I assume the Bannister Mall theatre is now closed. I had forgotten that a good portion of the Commonwealth Theatres ended up with United Artists. Many small towns that they serviced were sold to smaller regional companies.

dabutcher on April 25, 2006 at 10:55 pm

Thanks for the info, I appreciate it. Although I was a little sad to learn of Commonwealth’s fate (it was generally a class act company to work) I’m not surprised. They always tried,but not always successfully, to adhere to the old-fashioned doctrine of consistant quality in theatre and product. I discount the losing battle of the late 70’s drive-in desparation attempt, Like mild R films and chop-suey marathon.(but, what the people want…)

I’m especially interested in their booker,Richard, or Dick. He was always a dream to work with and would actually work with you. I once talked him into okaying a weekend of midnite showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in 1977 or 78, reasonably long before it bacame a cult classic. (at least in Springfield,MO) If anyone knows what happened to him, I would also appreciate the info.

JimRankin on April 26, 2006 at 10:28 am

Tracking down an individual is akin to background chack-up, as well as geneology. If he would still be of working years, try the Springfield area libraries for city directories and phone books that might list him. You might also try such national directories as If he is not in any Springfield area listing, he may have moved elsewhere in the nation, and in that case you might ask the Internal Revenue to forward a message from you giving your address and asking him to contact you. A similar service is said to be done by the Social Security Administration. If you are serious about this, there are ‘People Tracers’ around the country who will charge a fee to locate him, though if you can find some of his old friends or relatives where he lived, they may be the best source. If you don’t remember his last name, no one but these can help you. Only tax authorities and insurance companies kept records of employees of a company, though occasionally you will some of them listed in a city directory. Best Wishes.

dabutcher on April 30, 2006 at 7:22 am

I just got an e-mail from Denzil. Here is a story. One day I was working on the road lights at the Springfield Drive-In. It was about October, just before we shut down for the winter, but wanted a month or two. I was repairing one of the many roadlights, when one of the pole lights(one of four,like a diamond)having been eroded by the same heavy rain,fell like tree behind me. For about an hour, I was trapped between the live road light and the live pole light. If my city manager hadn’t showen up to check on the theatre, I guess I might have been there forever.(he turned off the breaker) Denzil, if you want more detailed stories, tell me what kind you wan to hear.

KingBiscuits on August 8, 2006 at 1:13 pm

The Bannister Mall 5 did close and the mall is mostly dead as well.

rickradio on September 19, 2006 at 6:34 pm

I worked for Commonwealth Theatre Circuit in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1979-80. I opened and managed the Flick Twin Cinema, opened as a stand along twin cinema for a corporation of four young businessmen. The theatre did pretty well, well enough for them to approach me about managing all of the theatres in the city. The company planned to move the other manager out and me “over” to take care of all of the theatres. they thought the he would move, but he refused. They offered me positons in Rolla, MO, Norman, OK and Lawrence, KS. I turned them all down and moved to Arkadelphia, AR, where I re-joined United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc., managing a twin theatre there. I left in the mid-1980s, and went to work in public relations for the state of Arkansas. I went back to school and got my master’s degree in journalism, and now am a college professor at the University of Tennessee at Martin. I enjoyed my time with Commonwealth, as they were VERY promotion-minded, which I liked. The district manager was Danny Smart and the Regional manager was Darrell Manes. The booker was Don Starkweather. It was a good company, with good people. It is a shame that the company was dismantled, like so many other good companies these days.

EwingFTW on October 18, 2006 at 6:55 pm

I worked for Commonwealth about 1948-1951 in Columbia, Missouri and worked at the Boone and Uptown Theaters. Richard Robinson mentioned Darrell Manes in his post on 9/19/06. Darrell was Manager of the Broadway Drive-In when I was at the Uptown. I learned later that he became President of Commonwealth. Darrell has passed away and I talked to his widownh in K. C. several years ago.

jackpoessiger on November 18, 2006 at 5:43 pm

I too worked for Commonwealth. First as a manager in Grand Island, Junction City, and Great Bend, Ks.
Then later (for 2o some years) as Director of Marketing in the K.C. home office.
Never made much money there but enjoyed working at Commonwealth. Good company!
FYI: Film booker-buyer Hal McClure passed away this past summer in K.C. :(
With best wishes—Jack Poessiger.

rickradio on June 30, 2007 at 10:07 am

Great to see a comment from Jack Poessiger, who was a GREAT director of marketing. Commonwealth was the best promotion-minded theatre company I ever saw. Anyone have any information about film buyer and booker Don Starkweather? District manager Danny Smart? Pine Bluff, Arkansas Commonwealth City Manager Joe Matthews? Thanks, Richard Robinson

miknye on August 27, 2007 at 1:14 pm

I worked for CAC about 10 years, leaving in 1986. At that time I was city manager in Norman, Ok. I worked in Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield, and Sedalia. I also worked in Wichita for several years. I enjoyed working for CAC, and would love to hear from any other old CAC managers. I remember Jack Poessiger, he did a great job with advertising, and of course Lee Jenks, Darrell Manes, Danny Smart, and Dough Lightner. Does anyone know how to apply for retirment benefits, I was told when I left that I would be entitled to a small check. But, since then the company was bought out. Hello to everyone out there, hope all is well. Mike Nye

EwingFTW on August 31, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Mike –

You probably worked with Bob Walter when you were in Columbia. Bob was just returning from World War II in 1948 and attending the Univ. of Missouri. He was working as a projectionist at the Boone Theater and taught me the business. I became Manager of the Boone and his wife Velma was one of my cashiers. After graduation they moved on and up with Commonwealth.

Velma still lives in Columbia.

donett on July 24, 2009 at 11:17 pm

I worked with Commonwealth from 1970 until is demise, stayed on with UA, then with Ron Leslie {AMC} Internation theater chain, then Carmike stepped in. time to move on after 25 years.
Would love to catch up with Jack, Richard Ytell, John Lightner, Don Ireland. So very sorry to hear about Hal. Life was never the same after CW for him. He was a good man. Actually, there were many good people that I thank God for their nurturing and support.
Bless you all

Kitty711 on May 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I worked at Commonwealth as a “Short’s Booker” right out of high school—1969 to 1972. Mr. Brown “Brownie” started out being my boss but I can not remember the name of next boss. I remember Hal Mcclure and I think Jack Poessiger and a man named Kip. I remember “Film Row” and a few famous people who came through. It was a fun little job that paid very little by today’s standards. I live in another state now. Two years ago I was in KC and went by to see the place. It was occupied by some firm —– I looked through the front door —looked a little different. People were coming in and out. Felt a little sad. Janet

paudnl on September 2, 2010 at 9:18 pm

It’s three years later, but I just saw the comment posted by Mike Nye. I worked with Mike at the Uptown Theatre in Columbia in 1969 when he was the assistant manager under John Newcomer. Mike left in September 1969 to take his first manager’s job at the nearby Hall Theatre. Hey, Mike, do you still have the autographed still of the cast from “The Wild Bunch?”

Timgovikes on October 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm

This thread brings back a lot of “Commonwealth” memories! I worked for the Cooper, Cooper-Highland, Commonwealth and United Artists chains from 1974 – 1993 (with a few breaks in service!). My theatres were in Colorado Springs, Greeley and Rapid City, South Dakota. All theatres are closed now, but I managed the Cooper 1-2-3, Ute 70, Mall of the Bluffs Twin, Rustic Hills North Twin and Rustic Hills Cinema in Colorado Springs; Wilshire Twin in Greeley; and I was City Manager in Rapid City based out of the Rushmore Cinema. My City Manager in Colorado Springs was Carl Rolfes. After Carl was promoted to District Manager, Mike Rosencutter replaced him as City Manager. After Commonwealth Theatres purchased Cooper-Highland, I remember the occasional visits and inspections from Dale Stewart, Phil Blakey and Bruce Young. I always enjoyed talking to Bruce Young, but Dale and Phil weren’t very friendly – ha!! They knew the theatre business though. Mike Rosencutter passed away in 1983. Carl Rolfes is retired and living in Colorado. Does anyone remember Chuck Kroll? He lives in the Denver area. I remember ordering “Point of Purchase” materials from Jack Poessiger! I don’t remember the name of our booker out of Denver — I know I have his name somewhere in my box of theatre memorabilia. Thanks for letting me reminisce!! Tim Hyland

DanCope on November 5, 2011 at 2:51 am

Hello to all my old Commonwealth friends. It was quite by accident that I found this website. You all have sparked a lot of old memories, some I’m very found of and others that were very memorable; like being shot at at the 50 Hiway Drive In and also at the Ruskin Theatre. The colorful people like Jim Beachamp, the cigar smoking Jess Spain, and of course Danny Smart. We were very lucky to be part of the business when we were. I finally retired from the business working for Dickinson theatres in 2008. It wasn’t even close to being the same as it was when we started. We were accountants, ad men, and most of all “Showmen”. Today managers are schedule makers and social workers. Please keep the comments comming.

silyj on November 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Hello! sorry to bother all of you but I happen to be related to douglas. I didn’t ever get to know him and haven’t heard much about him. I have just recently heard of commonwealth, and are very curious! If any of you know of pictures or other links or even your stories, I would love to know!

JohnCochranIII on December 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Hello All.

My Father, John Cochran, worked for Commonwealth Theatres for nearly 30 years. I was raised in the Theatres and have the fondest memories of locations in Clinton, Waynesville (where the Theatre flooded every spring and the Drive-In was next to a Mafia Cat House), Grand Island, and Fort Collins. Dad was King of the Sun in the 70s (I have his plaque and picture with Sean Connery!) and it has been nice to read about a lot of the names mentioned above.

Father died November 10th of this year and my Mother asked if I could find a site where Commonwealth people kept track of each other. Seems like this is the place. We hope you are well. If you have any questions or thoughts, I will periodically check-in here and look.

rickradio on December 30, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Whatever happened to Frank Jones? He was the district manager for Commonwealth in Oklahoma City. Also the DM in Lawrence, Kansas, I believe his name was “Elwood,” but cannot remember. Just trying to see where these gentlemen are, or even if they are still living.

JohnCochranIII on December 30, 2011 at 7:41 pm

I’ll ask my Mother and see if she knows. She lives in Manhattan, KS.

Barrett on January 15, 2012 at 11:01 pm

My father, Rex P. Barrett, built the Uptown Theatre in Columbia and joined a new theatre chain that was forming called Commonwealth Amusement out of Kansas City. This was sometime after 1934. Dad kept a one-fourth ownership in the Uptown and eventually in all the theatres in Columbia. He kept the concession in the Uptown and my grandparents ran that for a while. Later Dad also built the Boone Theatre in Columbia. I grew up going to both theatres. Then the competition decided to sell out sometime while I was in Junior High about 1950 I’d guess. Commonwealth and Dad bought the Missouri, the Hall and the Varsity Theatres. I worked in all those theatres and in the Broadway Drive in during High School and college 1950-1960. I knew Doug Lightner and Darrel Manes because they both worked a while in Columbia while my father was city manager. Dick O'Rear started with the company as a young kid and worked his way up over the years to President. All the higher up guys who worked in the central office got golden parachutes when the chain was broken and sold.

CochranIII: John Cochran and I went to High School together. He was two years younger and my brother’s age. The two of them went through scouting together and both earned the Eagle Award from the same Scout Troop 3 in Columbia. John and Larre kept touch with each other over the years until recently. John’s mother was a good friend to my mother. I remember when John became so interested in the theatre business and decided to make it a life’s work. I too remember the theatre in Waynesville also and saw it flooded one time. My older brother managed there but left Commonwealth and moved to Arizona.

BOBKENDRICK on January 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm

It was fun to find this string. My grandfather, Robert (Bob) Shelton, was president of Commonwealth in the early 1950’s before he died. I’m actually named for him. Does anyone remember him? He ran a number of theaters in Missouri as he moved up the ladder. When I graduated from college in the 1970’s, I went to work for Commonwealth in the building on 18th Street in KC.

JohnCochranIII on April 13, 2012 at 9:44 am

It is quite pleasant to read all this. Mr. Barrett: I am quite familiar with your story and was regaled by Father regarding a number of things you describe in your Post above. A very pleasant trip down memory lane. I return to Columbia about every 6 months to see my best friend and take care of my Grandparent’s graves.

thadnoto on May 21, 2012 at 9:44 pm

This all very interesting! I enjoyed the time I worked for Commonwealth very much, I am sad the company went under. I was the assistant to Ray Holmes, the City Manager in Manhattan, KS 1978 – 1980, and spent most of my time down at the Wareham. A really first rate company to work for.

cjbehr on June 20, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I believe that my great uncle, O.K. Mason, was one of the founders of Commonwealth Theatres. He used to talk about his first theatre being located in Newton, KS.

cjbehr on June 21, 2012 at 11:23 am

After further review, my records indicate that O.K. Mason and Charles Schultz formed Commonwealth Theater Corporation of Kansas City in 1935. There was apparently some indirect involvement or Fox Films. Does anyone have further information on the early years?

brianprovo on June 21, 2012 at 11:33 am

Mike Rossencutter was mentioned above. He hired me when I was 15 in Nebraska, my parents were friends with him and his wife Nancy. He died pretty young, I believe he was in his 30’s. I managed theatres ins Scottsbluff and Alliance, Nebraska in the 80’s. Dean McMillian was my DM and he was out of Rapid City, SD. Phil Blakey coming to town? That’ll put the fear of God in ya!

ronruth on June 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm

I stumbled onto this site today as I was looking for info on Ron Leslie, formerly with AMC Theatres. He passed away today and I was trying to refresh my memory as to what he looked like. The name is very familiar but I don’t recall his face.

Regardless, I worked for Commonwealth from 1976 until the summer of 1985. I was hired by Webb Meredith, the Dsitrict Manager over Oklahoma operations. I started at the Hollywood Theatre in Norman in the summer of 1976 before being transferred to the Quail Twin Theatre in OKC a few months later.

I followed Webb when he was transferred to Albuquerque before following him back to my home town of Kansas City. I did a short stint at the Ranchmart Theatre and was the opening manager of the Bannister Mall 5 in December of 1980. I was promoted in the early 80’s to Kansas City City Manager but kept my office at the Bannister Mall.

Webb was a mentor to me. He taught me so much about life, management and business. He and his wife Marcia were friends. Webb died in the early summer of 1985 of a heart problem he had had for a number of years. I believe he was only in his early to mid 40’s.

After his death, my alligience to Commonwealth faded and I took the position of Operations Manager with Cineplex Theatres in Houston.I eventually left the motion picture business in 1989.

Today there is a small group of former industry people in KC who get together for lunch once a month. I don’t get to go as often as I would like but it’s always fun sharing stories of days gone by.

For me…I always remember Webb, Darrell Manes. They hold a special place in my heart. I’ll also remember the wild and crazy days of Show-a-rama. Movie people really know how to throw a party!

JoeMatthews on March 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I worked for Commonwealth Theatres most of my life. I started when I was going to school at the University Of Arkansas at Fayetteville ,Arkansas and worked in several states as manager till I moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas and retired there about 15 years ago. I was checking on the internet for any former employees still living and stumbled on this site. As I read the posts the towns, theatres, and employee names brought back MANY WONDERFUL MEMORIES. If any of the “Oldtimers” are still around let me hear from you . I would love to talk to you again.

Joe Matthews.

MitchCase on April 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I worked at a Commonweath theatre in Los ALamos, NM. The Centre Theatre. It was a single screen, 1000 seat theater with stage. I started in 1974 as a doorman and left as the Ast.Mgr. to join the Navy in 1976. I worked for Randall Foy, John Hare, and Eric Bru. I also worked briefly as a checker for theaters in Santa Fe for Mr. Blakey.

EwingFTW on April 23, 2013 at 6:18 pm

I haven’t looked at this site for about 6 years. I’m glad to see Barrett’s post. I worked for Rex Barrett at the Uptown as a Manager. Earlier, I managed the Boone Theater. While at the University, Bob Walter taught me to be a projectionist at the Boone. I remember Bob Shelton and Darrell Manes and many others if you just mention the names.

JoKnowles on May 8, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Stumbled on this site & have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the comments. I am the widow of Greg Knowles, who was President of Commonwealth for a while. I remember many of the people mentioned & a lot of memories resurfaced. There were a lot of great times to remember.

BernieMac on August 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm

What happened to our Profit Sharing Plan if we worked there in the 80’s? I never heard from them after I left them in 1987. Any info will help.

shoop1948 on August 18, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Yeah I still have that autographed still, what do you remember about it. The Hall Theatre was my first managers job, then I went to KC and worked for Danny Smart running the Waldo for just a few months before I had to go into the Army. Luckily I was able to join them Mo National Guard, so I got back in a little more than 7 months and went to Springfield to run the Hi M Dr In. I fire remember Danny Cope, does anyone remember George Day? It is great to hear from everyone.

prodriguez on October 3, 2013 at 11:15 pm

I was just a high school summer worker in 1983-84, but LOVED working for Commonwealth Theaters. I worked at the downtown “State Theater” and the drive in theater in Garden City KS. My boss was James Drake who was also the city manager. We had a crusty old guy names Barney who had received a ring from Commonwealth for 40 years of service.

I miss the drive-in, it shut down in the late 80s. A classmate of mine has refurbished the downtown theater building to make it a live theater house.

I still remember watching my training video on “suggestive selling”, “Would you like a large soft drink with that popcorn?” If we took tickets we wore an ugly red blazer with a commonwealth patch. We were constantly on the look-out for “checkers”, who were the Commonwealth “police” sent to do an incognito surprise inspection disguised as customers.

Fond memories!

solders on December 19, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I was wondering if anyone knew what happened to Bob Ostercamp, who worked in OKC in the mid 80’s. And does anyone know anything about Danny Smart? My name is Mike Nye, and I worked for CAC in the late 60’s in Columbia through the mid 80’s in Norman, OK. I took a few years off in the middle to go to school. The business was changing somuch when I left, but enjoyed working for CAC all those years. My contact informatio is

rickradio on January 11, 2014 at 12:01 am

Joe, I’m so glad to know you are still alive and kicking! It’s been a long time. Hope you are still doing well. Are you still living in Pine Bluff?

Richard Robinson

DanCope on January 21, 2014 at 2:35 am

I really enjoy reading the comments posted on this web-site, however………not very many of the questions we’ve all asked have been answered. I would like to improve communications by adding my email address. I have fond memories of several of you, Joe, Mike and others. . How many remember Colorado Springs?

PaulHolliman on February 15, 2014 at 3:16 am

I have enjoyed reading this blog. I started working at Commonwealth Theaters in Emporia, Kansas as a projectionist at the 50-S Drive In in the late 1970’s. I managed theaters for CAC in Emporia, and at the Ranchmart, Trailridge, and Crest Drive-In in Kansas City. I worked in the home office at 215 W. 18th Street as a clerk, and then moved to the Denver office as a film booker. In 1987 they moved me to Dallas as a film buyer, and I left the company as it was being dissolved by Golan/Globus and joined Disney as a salesman. I became a branch manager for Disney at Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and handled many territories: New Orleans, Memphis, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. I served a decade as Assistant General Sales Manager, then head of Worldwide Digital Cinema Operations. I am now in my 27th year at Disney as Vice President, Strategic Planning at the studio in Burbank. It has been a fascinating career, enabled by great mentors and friends such as Hal McClure, Jack Poessiger, Don Starkweather, Don Ireland, Marvin Goldfarb, Cliff Godfrey, Steve Zuehlke, John Roberts and many other Commonwealth alumni. I too have fond memories of Darrell Manes, Webb Meredith, Jess Spain, John Lightner, Eldon Harwood, Richard Ytell and so many others.

The Commonwealth days were great fun. Nice to see the post from Ron Ruth, who I remember from Kansas City.

bobofgrand on July 16, 2014 at 9:03 pm

My wife’s grandfather was Howard Jameyson. I believe he was Chairman some time during the fifties or sixties. We still have some old pictures of the company functions and such. He was good friend with a Dick O'Neal and an O K Mason.

cjbehr on July 24, 2014 at 6:12 am

I can remember Uncle Orlo (O.K. Mason) talking about Howard Jameyson. I wonder if he didn’t also have a place on the Frying Pan River in Colorado?

jackpoessiger on July 31, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Hey Paul, Fun reading your comments. Hope everything still good for you. Missed you at CinemaCon this past spring. Meant to tell you that I came close to working at Disney back in the 70’s. Ludwig was the VP-GSM if memory serves me correctly. His daughter was in marketing and the offer made to me back then was also in the marketing department. In retrospect I’m glad I didn’t take Disney’s offer since a house cleaning was made about half a year later with most of the Disney family management blown out. It would probably had been a short career with the Mouse House. Ironically a similar situation occured when UA bought out Commonwealth. At the end it was just Ytell, his secretary and myself left at 215 West 18th Street. Before they finally said bye, bye and handed me a check they offered to move me to either Denver or L.A. I turned that offer down as well. And once again I was in luck because most of the UA brass disappeared a short time later…..

All the best,
Jack Poessiger

midtown_kc on August 15, 2014 at 1:12 am

I remember the Ranch Mart Theatre as a Commonwealth Theatres. Someone asked what happened to the Ranch Mart. Here is the info… Oddly this article does not say the name Ranch Mart Theatre. The Leawood is still open

27564dh on September 20, 2014 at 10:48 am

John Cochran III: I believe I worked for your father at the Campus Theatre in Manhattan, KS around 1970 – 1972. I was the projectionist. Just stumbled onto your posts. I am sorry to hear of John’s passing. Always a very cheerful, friendly person. He treated me to a KSU basketball game one night. I was about 24-25 years old at the time. I also remember he hosted a staff appreciation dinner at his home near Aggieville. I have vague memories of you as a boy when your dad would bring you to work with him. Over the years I worked at all the Commonwealth theatres in Manhattan including the Wareham, Varsity, Campus and Sky-Vue Drive-In. Great days for sure!

JohnCochranIII on October 8, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Thanks for the memories. I, too, have fond ones of Aggieville, the parades, bonfires, and KSU Pep Band.

I’m talking with my Mother right now and she is curious as to your name? She still lives in Manhattan and would love to know more…

JohnCochranIII on October 8, 2014 at 10:02 pm

My Mom is wanting to know if anyone has heard from Charlie Tryon?

If Mr. Poessiger reads this she wanted to me to also deliver a ‘Hello’ from her.

27564dh on October 9, 2014 at 3:21 am

My name is Dave Henderson. I lived in Manhattan from 1947-1978, then moved to Cleveland, OH. I wish I could remember the names of the others at the Campus Theater. Daryl Langvardt was a doorman. Vicki Bingham sold tickets. The custodian’s name was Herb (always chomping on a cigar). There were several doormen (ushers) and concession staff of course. Come to think of it, I believe that staff dinner we had at your Mom and Dad’s house was actually a birthday celebration for Herb (he had no family). I remember the openings of Woodstock, Airport, Joe, and all the Saturday night “art” films that began around 11:00 pm (the college students lined up around the corner for these occasional late night movies). I believe the last time I saw your Dad was after the opening of the West Loop Twin in West Loop Shopping Center (theater now closed). Ron Fecteau and I were the projectionists (Ron eventually left and I took over full time). Your Dad showed up unexpectedly before we opened for the day and I gave him a tour of the theater. For some reason, I think your Dad was no longer associated with the Manhattan Theaters then – not sure. Your Dad (along with the original Airport movie) encouraged me to follow my lifelong dream of becoming a commercial pilot. I recently retired after 44 years of commercial flying. My theater days and especially the Campus continue to provide special memories.

JohnCochranIII on October 9, 2014 at 9:09 am

I was a kid when Air port came out but I’ll tell you it made an impression as well. I have two boys (John—11 and Chris—-8) and they KNOW whenever we get our first heavy snow here in Colorado that Dad’s tradition goes into full force. The first big snow ALWAYS brings a showing of Airport at this house!

It was a great time growing up in Commonwealth Theatres as a kid. I remember all sorts of crazy stunts Father did for publicity: Shooting up an old car for Bonnie and Clyde, suspending from the ceiling a broken canoe with dummy hanging out of it for Deliverance, HUGE Promos for Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back, and having the entire Fire Department out front for Towering Inferno. Great stuff.

We moved to Fort Collins for Dad’s last years in Commonwealth. I moved to Greeley for college and worked at the Greeley Mall Twin and Wilshire as Assistant Manager at each location. Course all those theatres are closed/gone. Mike Smaha was City Manager and he did good work in those days making the theatres do quite well.

JohnCochranIII on October 9, 2014 at 9:12 am

Dave: I will relay and to Mom and Post her thoughts her later on today. Seem to remember that we were in Manhattan visiting my Grandmother when the West Loop opened and Dad couldn’t stay away because he REALLY wanted to see the new theatre!

JohnCochranIII on October 9, 2014 at 9:24 am

Sorry for the spelling and grammar on the last two Posts. Cannot figure out how to get in and EDIT the Postings! That is what I get for typing quickly before going to work.

27564dh on October 9, 2014 at 11:58 am


As we all get older, we remember people in our past who made an impression on us. Your father is certainly on my list. A finer, friendlier, more compassionate man would be hard to find. Commonwealth was lucky to have him as a manager. I feel fortunate to have known him as the caring person he was.

Enjoyed chatting with you.

27564dh on October 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Not sure what that “remove” is for after the date. It wasn’t me!

JohnCochranIII on October 13, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Am talking with Mom and she has advice for anyone looking for Commonwealth’s retirement info. Phone Number is (800) 624-5155. Good luck because it is a pain! This is now handled by John Hancock Life Insurance Company (USA) PO Box 55446 Boston, MA 02205-5446. Hope that helps!

Olin Remert, Jr is living in Topeka and was a projectionist. Ron Fechner (Sp?) still lives in Manhattan and owns several rental properties.

Mom wanted me to relay does anyone know where or in what state the following people are in:

  1. Leon Hufnagle
  2. Phil Blakey
  3. Bruce Young.

I have pictures of several King of the Sun and Show-a-Rama get togethers.

27564dh on October 14, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Thanks so much John for passing along this information. Olin Remert was the projectionist at the Wareham Theater in Manhattan (shows at 1,3 5,7 & 9). I went to high school with his daughter Linda. I remember sitting in the balcony in the first row of seats below the projection room. Often, I was the only one in the balcony. I was probably 10 years old at the time. I would always watch the projectionist (Olin) at work through the large glass booth window. At one point, he invited me into the projection booth and I was absolutely “in awe” at how these machines could throw that beam of light onto a screen so far away. I watched him do a changeover and he explained the cue marks in the upper-right of the screen. I fell in love with theaters and the projection room.

Ron Fecteau was the one who taught me the “art” of being a projectionist at the Sky-Vue Drive-In when I was probably 17-18 years old. Ron worked at all the Manhattan theaters (as I did) and found his way into the local school system as a custodian.

I am familiar with the names you mention but have no idea where those folks are.

27564dh on October 14, 2014 at 9:50 pm

OK…. Now I’m going back a long time (at least 35 years).

2 minutes left. The upper reel bell chimes, start carbon-arc lamp-house on idle machine, focus flame (two-knobs), watch upper-right screen, 1st cue mark, start projector head motor (Brenkert), open shutter, second cue mark, step on changeover pedal and switch sound, check framing, focus, shut-down opposite lamp-house, turn off projector head motor, rewind take-up reel, and thread next reel. Repeat in 18 minutes.

The manually operated motorized curtains and dimmer controlled screen lights added expectation and excitement for the audience.

I made $5.00 and hour and it was a very rewarding job. Much like flying a business jet. HA!

JudyTryon on December 28, 2014 at 5:07 pm

John, It breaks my heart to say, but my sweet Charlie passed away April 9, 2014. To me, he was such a good man in every way, and loved the theatre business.

Sorry I didn’t know about this site sooner. Like everyone else, I’m enjoying the memories. I remember your mom and dad well. I remember Charlie lacing a new screen, I think in Chillicothe, and instead of getting off the ladder and moving it over, your dad lifted both Charlie and ladder and moved him over. So scary to watch. I remember you had a big dog that liked to jump in the bath tub. So many wonderful memories.

I’m pretty sure your mom will remember me, had dinner at your home a few times, many year ago, before Charlie and I were married. Anyway, tell her hello and I will try and check back soon.

DanCope on January 2, 2015 at 1:14 am

I always enjoyed the times when Charlie and Johnny Augustine showed up at my theatres, I really believe very few people ever enjoyed their “jobs” as much as those two did.

Jess Spain was a true friend and a really nice guy. Every Monday morning he would have a list for me of tobacco products to purchase at the RED-X in Riverside to deliver prior to those wonderful Monday morning meetings.

JudyTryon on January 9, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Dan, Charlie and Johnny were quite a pair, true cut=ups. I was at Commonwealth in 1964 for about 18 months as a bookers secretary and shorts booker and somehow was also making trips to red x, but my trips were weekly, for Charlie and a couple of the bookers. I remember Jess well. I worked for Chet Hylton and Phil Blakey

Razorback13 on April 30, 2015 at 11:58 pm

I probably worked with rickradio in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I started there my junior year in HS at the Sanger Theater, working for Chuck Neff. That was a great theater. Very old with the really steep balcony and elaborate plaster artwork on the ceilings of the lobby and balcony lobby ceiling. Later moved to the “new twin cinema” at Broadmoor working for Don Mohr and later with Joe Matthews. This was just great work to the point it wasn’t really work. I worked with DMs Frank Jones and Danny Smart. I was also sent in to manage and close some of the older theaters starting with the Sanger and later the Zebra Drive In. I really enjoyed the work and had a great time during the addition of the third theater at the Broadmoor Twin Cinemas. I still have a couple of the hats and shirts with the Crest Patch on them. I will keep those for the rest of my days. I later managed the Pines Drive In for several years. Toward the end of that run I had learned to run the carbon/arc projectors at that theater. That theater later closed and they built a grade school there. I often wondered how many kids going to that school may have been conceived on that very property. After relocating to the DFW area in 85 I would up working for General Cinema as a projectionist for 11 ½ years. Again a great job until the phased out the professional projectionists and handed the projection work to the floor staff. It has been great seeing all of the comments. Hopefully if there is anyone from the Pine Bluff area monitoring this blog it would be great to catch up.

SBLACK on May 10, 2015 at 7:07 pm

Bought by UNITED ARTISTS. I worked part of my way through college while working my way up to managing a few theatres. I understand the desire to reminisce… Those were the days for sure. Don’t know what it is about movie theatre people but the group I ran with was awesome… Miss them all!

Samiam27 on May 21, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Hello! I found this site purely by accident while looking for an old boss of mine, Carl Rolfes. I worked for Commonwealth Theatres in the 1980’s. First in Scottsbluff Nebraska and later on in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I managed the Ute-70 downtown Colorado Springs and also the Mall of the Bluffs. I am wanting to reconnect with Carl Rolfes because he was one of the BEST bosses I EVER had and I would like to share my family with him, to show him what happened to me AFTER Commonwealth Theatres. So if anyone has any info on how to find him, please let me know. I tried FB, but was pretty sure he wouldn’t be there. :) Some of the other folks I worked with at CT were Reed Hagen (from Minneapolis) in Scottsbluff, and then many from Colo Springs – can’t remember all of them. Sure do miss those times! Look forward to hearing from anyone who might remember me. Shelli Morgan

tom1956 on June 12, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Hello Everyone. I’m Tom Gunn and my father George Gunn worked for Commonwealth. The earliest info I have on him (before 1956 when I was born) he started with CAC in 1951 and was in Great Bend Ks. at the Strand theater until late 1952 when they moved him to Ellinwood Ks. The theater there was sold and in 1954 and he was moved back to Great Bend to run the Plaza theater. He stayed with CAC until the end of 1954. From 1955 thru 1958 my father was a policeman in Great Bend. He rejoined CAC in 1959 and we were moved to Sedalia Mo (I believe the theater n there was the Starzz but not 100% sure) until mid 1960. We then moved to Washington Mo.( I believe the theater was the Sunset) but was there only about 6 months before CAC moved us to the Woodland theater in Waynesville Mo. in 1961. This was a great place to live as our house was on top of the snack bar. A very small 2 bedroom house that we could open the front door and sit on the couch and watch the movies. Yes we had a speaker wired in the house. In the summer of 1963 we were moved to Monett Mo. where he managed both Ozark drive-in theater and the Gillioz indoor theater. In the summer of 1965 we moved to Springfield Mo. where he managed the Sunset, Hi-M and the Springfield drive in. I believe that Bert English was the district manager at that time and was also in Springfield. In the summer of 1967 we were then moved to Hickman Mills Mo.(suburb of Kansas City) to the Crest drive in and the Ruskin indoor theater. In late 1968 we moved to Casper Wy. to the Mile-high drive-in and were there into 1969. My father had a heart attack while we were in Casper and Commonwealth at that time let my father go saying he could no longer do his job. Until this time we felt CAC was a very good company but when this happened it showed how little the company stood by it’s employees. We then move to Broomfield Co. where my father started working for another theater company managing the Nor-West drive-in in Broomfield. This was the last theater my father managed. We moved backed to Missouri and then Texas where dad past away in 1988. It would be nice to here from anyone who knew my father or any of us as we were always at the drive-ins. My brothers are Doug and Michael Gunn and sisters Sharon and Della Gunn. Any info or any pictures would be great as I am collecting pictures of the drive-ins that my father managed. I don’t check this blog to often so a fasted way of getting in touch with me would be

DanCope on October 31, 2015 at 3:20 am

Tom the theatre in Sedalia was the Fox theatre. I managed the Ruskin Theatre, Crest Drive In, Ranchmart, I-35 Clay Co Drive In, Riverside Drive In. I remember the weekend at the Ranchmart when it reopened as a 4plex. Woody Longdan was the GM. I was sent to help him, I’ll never forget the chaos. We showed “The Train Robbers”, “The Get Away, "Jeremiah Johnson” and I can’t remember the 4th feature. Crowd control was interesting, a new experience in the Kansas City area

MrElliott on November 12, 2016 at 9:21 pm

The White Sands Theatre in Alamogordo, NM was a Commonwealth Theatre from 1969 – 1985. In 1987 it was purchased by Vision Broadcasting and ran as a TV station until 2013 when they reopened the theatre under the name Historic Sands Theatre.

STEVE_RILEY on April 4, 2017 at 1:47 pm

It’s not likely any of you remember me, I worked in shipping with George and Funston. My name is Steve Riley and I remember most of you. You might remember me as Mildred’s boy. My mother was Mildred Riley the PBX operator.

Johnhartleyjr63__ on November 9, 2017 at 2:48 pm

hello this is john hartley started in accounting moved to purchasing left for Dickinson theatres and later owned. great memories from commonwealth

leneagleburger on July 4, 2018 at 5:14 pm

I started working at the Hi-M Drive In in Springfield in 1967 as a ramp boy. Was promoted to Concession Manager then Trainee Manager before I was drafted in the US Army in 1968. After Army was Night Manager at Springfield Drive In in 1972, Manager of the Sunset Drive In in 1973, Holiday Drive In in 1974 and Queen City Twin in 1975. Resigned as City Manager in Sedalia, Missouri and became a Union Projectionist under Elmer Nuttelmann in Springfield in 1978. When I started at the Hi-M, Darrel Manes was District Manager and Bert English was City Manager. Other District Managers were Frank Jones and Danny Smart. Other City Managers were Bill Terrill, Dean McMillen and Russell Cox. Harold Nichols and Charley Tryon were theatre technicians for Commonwealth.Helped open the Holiday and Queen City Twin in construction. Gary Prosser opened the Holiday Drive In in 1970. Roberta Prosser was secretary for Bert English and Dean McMillen. Last time I saw Frank Jones him and his wife were superintendents of a resort near Branson after he retired from Commonwealth. Last I heard from Dean McMillen he was District Manager in Boise, Idaho. I went on to be projectionist at Fox, Gillioz, Petite 3 and Northtown 3, Battlefield Mall 6 and Campbell 16 and all the Drive Ins when I retired in 2000. Tim Mudloff started his career as a trainee-manager at the Springfield Drive In and transferred back home to Grand Island Nebraska. I think he still manages a theatre in Kansas. Mildred Haynes was Concession Manager at the Springfield D.I. and became manager at the Hi-M then transferred to Fort Wood Theatre and Drive In. She passed away a few years ago.

leneagleburger on July 4, 2018 at 6:15 pm

Johnny Augustine was a RCA Technician. Last time I talked to Bert English, he was District Manager in El Paso, Texas. I was trying to get a position at McClendon Cinema Park 3-screen Drive In Theatre at El Paso where I worked when I was stationed there in the Army. Another manager I worked with in Springfield was Jim Dake who left Springfield to go to the Fort Wood Theatre and Drive In at Waynesville. His wife Brenda, was secretary for Frank Jones at one time.Bill Terrill left Springfield and ran Drive In’s in Joplin. Some of the Drive In projectionists were Elmer Nuttelmann, Jim Wilson, Charles Southwick, Charley Martin, Robin Funkhouser, Sam Hall, Floyd Noblitt (Floyd’s wife Jean was Cashier at Hi-M). Harold Nichols was Manager at the Hi-M before he went corporate. He had ran theatres in Columbia before his stint at Hi-M. I think he lives in California today. Floyd and Jean Noblitt retired to Cape Coral Florida.

leneagleburger on July 4, 2018 at 11:08 pm

I remember Commonwealth Thaetrs Inc. was located at 215 W. 18th Street in KC. I remember ordering a lot of stuff from Mid-Continent Theater Supply,and Drive In Theater Manufacturing Company.

leneagleburger on July 5, 2018 at 2:25 pm

The short time I was in Sedalia, Missouri, The two old single screen theatres were closed downtown, and the Fox had recently been closed. I oversaw the State Fair Twin and the 54(?) Drive In. Joe Matthews had either retired or was transferred. I had transferred there from The Queen City Twin Drive In in Springfield.Frank Jones was District Manager. Russell Cox had recently been named City Manager of the Drive In’s in Springfield when Dean McMillen had transferred and been promoted to a District Manager in Boise, Idaho.

leneagleburger on July 6, 2018 at 3:35 pm

National Screen Service : K.C., MO

leneagleburger on December 30, 2020 at 7:54 pm

Harold Nichols

Brookline - Harold Glenn Nichols, 89, of Springfield, MO., passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family who loved him dearly on December 24, 2020, after a brief illness. He was born in Columbia, Missouri, to George Turner Nichols and Anna Josephine (Cunningham) Dick, on June 26, 1931.

Harold worked for the movie theatre business for over 60 years, installing projectors and sound equipment. His interests included watching and collecting old western movies, refinishing antique vehicles, and spending time with family and friends. He was a member of Wesley United Methodist Church.

Harold is preceded in death by his parents and his daughter, Karen Lynn.

He is survived by his wife of 72 years, Joanna Lee (Grant) of the home; a son, Charles Nichols and wife Lupe; a daughter, Alice Ramey and husband Dale; 8 grandchildren, and 23 grandchildren, and a host of friends.

Visitation will be Monday, January 4, 2020 from 3:00 - 4:00 P.M. at Walnut Lawn Funeral Home Ltd. DeGraffenreid - Wood Crematory. Graveside services will be held at 1:00 P.M. Tuesday, January 5, 2020 at Memorial Park Cemetery, Columbia, MO.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Harold’s name to Hospice Compassus, 1341 W. Battlefield Rd. Ste. 120, Springfield, MO. 65807.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment