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(BOXOFFICE, December 6, 1947)
Small-Town Theatre Designed for Public Serviceby Hanns R. Teichert
There are many small towns now supporting an old grownup-with-the-town theatre that are wide open for a second new and up-to-date house. But Walworth, Wis. is not one of them. Venerable as the town is, its inhabitants and those of the surrounding countryside are the proud patrons of one of the most modern and delightfully functional theatres in their part of the country. This property, owned by the Harvard Theatre Corporation, composed of John Papas, C. J. Papas and S. J. Papas, seats seven hundred people. And the first illustration will show how smart the house is from the initial visual impression.
A Refreshment Bar
It will be noticed at once that the building incorporates a refreshment bar. And inasmuch as this issue is stressing that feature of service, we cannot think of a better example of smart handling in this department. For this little bar is unique in many respects. In the first place, there is a service counter running across the middle of the shop so that it is divided into two separate sales areas; that toward the front door, and that toward the side rear door. From the front are served the people who come in from the street and who are not just then patronizing the theatre. And from the rear door are served those who come in from the theatre. Thus there is no confusion of unticketed small patrons getting among those who have already paid their entrances.
The other side of the door to the theatre lobby can be seen in the second illustration, where it will be noticed how smoothly it is incorporated into the features of the lobby wall. But first, a glance through the large plate glass window between the Showette and the outer lobby arrests the patron as he comes in and by the time he reaches the door in the inner lobby he has likely made up his mind to step in for popcorn, candy or something at the fountain. At least, that was what the Showette started serving when they first opened; but the demand has been so great that now hot and cold sandwiches have been added and small lunches. They are also making their own ice cream, and all this is served both day and night. This provides a great service to the children who throng in from the grammar and high school next door. To say that the Showette is popular is a vast understatement.
For those who do not want to go into the Showette when it is apt to be crowded with youngsters just before and after features, there is a bar at the head of the lobby where quick refreshments such as candy, gum and popcorn can be picked up in passing. Older people seem to find this a convenience. It will be noticed that both of these areas are incorporated into the architecture of the interior, and that they are neat, sanitary and a visual asset to the theatre instead of the messy and in-the-way afterthoughts that they sometimes are.
But enough for the handling of refreshments in this smart theatre and on to some of the other features it offers its patrons. On the opposite side of the lobby from the Showette are recesses leading to a modem ladies' powder room, the men’s smoking room, and a tiled inset containing the drinking fountain. Thus the necessary facilities for the service of patrons are distributed on both sides of the incoming and outgoing traffic areas so that a smooth flow is assured at all times. But it is the decoration of the Walworth Theatre that also keys it to what is best in its field. Foremost is the fact that everything has been so simply handled that it will date less quickly than most other houses: still, when the time comes for a general up-dating, the whole atmosphere of the house can be changed simply through an alteration of decorative treatment. Another color scheme, now motifs in the decorative panels, a few different accents here and there and presto! … a new interior!
The Color Scheme
At present, the color scheme in the lobby consists of coral red, warm off-white and gold, with carpeting that tones in well and is the same throughout the house. Plain surfaces on the side walls act as a foil to the rich squares of custom-made marble textured paper applied where the walls break toward the auditorium. Between these two marbleized areas is the centered candy bar backed with a decorative panel in an abstract floral pattern, well illuminated from the trough above. In fact, the illumination throughout the theatre is one of its most distinctive points. It was all especially designed and custom-made, much of it in pierced brass of classically fine design that will go with any subsequent redecorations. Another distinctive feature of the Walworth Theatre is its woodwork, which is finished in a natural light tone throughout to emphasize its good graining. This, too, is a permanent asset of the interior and requires no great working over in case of later changes.
The auditorium does not show the mistake made by so many of the smaller houses in going fussy or cute because of its size. The Walworth auditorium is executed with a dignity and simplicity that increases its size rather than diminishes it. The coral seating gives life to the area while the walls of deep turquoise are inset with sand-toned panels displaying free rhythmic leaf forms in a modern sketchy style. These are illuminated by curved light troughs that are a part of the panel ornamentation, and further lighting is taken care of free recessed overhead squares. It all sounds simple indeed, but the richness of these colorings and the feeling of tasteful restraint in the handling give a dynamic effect that is worth any amount of overdressing.
For All the People
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this house is the whole effect it has of being residential rather than commercial. This is a well-calculated result, built up of many details, and planned that way because of the patronage it serves. The latter is composed of townspeople, farmers from the surrounding rural area, resort people during the summer from the nearby lakes, and an unusual percentage of youngsters not only from the aforementioned sources but from a large military academy nearby.
It was desired that this theatre provide an intimate and homelike atmosphere further to bind all these elements of people together, rather than a coldly commercial interior, however impressive. And in this the Walworth is an acknowledged success. People of all the groups mentioned above do express themselves as feeling at home there. The Showette acts as their kitchen where they can pick up a bite when they are hungry. The powder and smoking rooms are sanitary and attractive, they meet their friends in the lobby, and they relax together in the auditorium as comfortably as in their own living rooms. The Walworth Theatre is the community’s mutual home for entertainment, and there is no need or room in the town for another.
(Kenosha News article on the GATEWAY Theatre [July 16, 2012] by Diane Giles)
People stood in line on Dec. 29, 1927 at the Gateway Theater box office to pay 30 cents for tickets to see live entertainment in addition to the silent film comedy adventure “She’s a Sheik,” staring Bebe Daniels.
The Gateway is now Rhode Center for the Arts, 514 56th St. The Gateway was the third building to stand on the site. The original Rhode Opera House, built in 1891 was destroyed in 1896 fire and rebuilt the same year.
The second building was razed by Milwaukee entertainment giants the Saxe Brothers in 1926 to make way for the “modern” building costing a half million dollars. That’s more than $6.5 million in today’s money.
The theater was designed by George Leslie Rapp of Chicago. George and his brother Cornelius W. Rapp, who died a year before the Gateway opened, designed some of the finest movie palaces in the country.
“We found the blueprints at the Chicago Historical Society and were able to purchase a copy,” said Judy Rossow, manager of Pollard Gallery and former board member of Rhode Center for the Arts.
The Rapp firm’s three greatest achievements, according to “Motion Picture News” of Dec. 25, 1926, were the Paramount Theater in New York, the Oriental in Chicago and Shea’s Buffalo Theater in Buffalo, N.Y. The Rapps also designed the grand Chicago Theater in the heart of Chicago.
Seating 1,260, the Gateway Theater boasted a $60,000 organ offering wide instrumentation and sound effects.
But the real magnificence of the theater wasn’t in the auditorium. It was in the lobby, and much of it still is visible today.
“It’s different but basically the underlying is the same,” Rossow said.
Victor S. Pearlman and Co. of Chicago created the four crystal chandeliers that hang from the ceiling. The brown tiles on the floor that continue up the walls are original, made in Milwaukee at Continental Faience and Tile Co.
Perhaps the most intriguing are the decorative tiles made in Seville, Spain, at the Manuel Ramos Rejano factory.
Some frame panels stretching up two stories. Then there are the six ceramic benches that tell the story of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.” Each has a different scene, but all of them are signed by the artist.
Rossow says the benches once had wrought iron arms and backs, but those amenities were removed. The railings on the balcony and stairway, ribbed glass on the front doors and the mirrored walls in the outer ladies lounge also date back to 1927.
But there have been changes. Missing are the draperies and mural panels that once graced the lobby walls. A fountain that once stood in the lobby was removed in the 1970s.
The four large sconces in the lobby once hung in the auditorium, but they were moved. Others installed in the 1960s makeover into the Lake Theater have disappeared over the years.
“The sconces that were in the lobby in pre-1970 are no longer around,” Rossow explained. “I know of only one in the vicinity. The rest belong to collectors.”
In THE SPRINGFIELD PAPER on February 21, 2012, Offie Wortham wrote:
“In 1961 I was a physics student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and also the head of the Antioch Civil Rights Organization. With over 700 of the 1,100 students as paid members of the NAACP College Chapter, we were the largest organized civil rights organization on any campus in the country during the 60’s.
The owner of the Liberty Theater in Springfield had publicly vowed that Negroes would never be allowed in his theater. At that time African Americans also were not admitted into any of the bowling allies, roller skating rinks, and several restaurants in Springfield.
After hitch-hiking from Yellow Springs to Springfield I went to the box office to buy a ticket. I was told it was a “membership only” theater and I would not be admitted. I am Black. I walked around the corner to the police station and told them that we were going to have a demonstration at the theater after an attempt to have Blacks admitted. I got their assistance to park a busload of police around the corner while undercover police watched from the sidelines.
Because there were only 8 Black students at Antioch I had to go to Central State and Wilberforce to encourage a busload of Black students to come to be a part of the demonstration.
Well over 100 students came to take part in the operation. The owner was interviewed before the event and said again that Blacks would not be admitted unless they were members. White racist organizations nationwide, including the Klan and the Nazi party, promised to be there to support the owner to keep out Blacks.
Coverage of the event was on nationwide television, and the streets were lined with local citizens to see the showdown between the radical students and the racist theater owner and his supporters.
Black and White students approached the box office in a single file that went around the block. All students were neatly dressed and some were even forced to wear shoes. At the head of the line was David Crippens, a Black student from Antioch who had drawn the longest straw from among those put in by over 20 Black students from the three colleges.
I stood across the street with the reporters with two press releases. One that congratulated the owner for changing his policy, the other announcing the beginning of a daily picket of the theater.
When David got to the box office the streets went completely silent. After a moment he turned and raised his ticket, and a cheer broke out in the streets and from the students in line, as they all purchased their tickets and entered the theater.
In the following days we had to attend the Black churches and convince them they could now attend the theater. Just a visit and discussion at the other segregated places in Springfield was all that was required to have them decide to admit African Americans."
(From BOXOFFICE, December 10, 1938)
A Remarkable Case of Property Reclamation
By Helen Kent
SENILITY had obviously moved in and taken possession of the old Liberty Theatre, at 16 East High Street, in Springfield, Ohio. It was, as will be seen by the picture presented here, definitely doddering, rheumatic and bleary-eyed in appearance, and as for operating efficiency, this had evidently passed (if indeed it were ever present) when the house was a mere stripling of youth. Whatever there may have been to attract patronage was simply not visible to the naked eye and it is quite surprising that the house could have existed as a moving picture theatre for as many years as it did.
A perfect case of hardening of the arteries was taking place before the eyes of Springfield moving picture patrons and they were expected to watch the slow process of erosion as a part of the so-called entertainment which they paid for at the boxoffice.
It seems that the movie-going public is a brave lot to entrust a couple of hours of their fleeting lives to the dubious pleasure of watching the screen in such environment as this. The old Liberty in Springfield was a striking example of the far too many grind-shops of its type which are scattered indiscriminately across the country in large towns and small ones, each doing its part to destroy the movie-going habit.
But somebody did something about the old Liberty. William Settos, its present manager, a veteran of 27 years' experience in theatre business, 14 of which were spent in Springfield, decided to make of the Liberty a theatre of which he as well as its patrons could well be proud. He employed the theatre division of P and Y Building Service, of Columbus, Ohio, to design and reconstruct the old house. It was closed only from August 9 to October 14, (1938) to permit rebuilding and modernization.
The well-calculated transformation was complete. This particular project offers again a prime example of our very pet conviction that this is the most logical way to foil bad business, to forestall overseating, and to keep out competition. We’ve long been in favor of remodeling—making the best of what the old building and its location may offer.
Here then is the fitting example of an old house which offered no advantages except that of a proved location being replaced—rather than placed in competition—with a modern theatre with House Appeal plus an undefiled location. Wisely, the owner tore down the old landmark and put up a sparkling new house on its very foundation. The ghost of the old veteran is laid and it does not remain to rise and compete in its half-baked condition with the new theatre, which by reason of its excellence deserves and will get increased patronage.
The extent to which modernization was necessary in the case of the Liberty Theatre is evidenced in the fact that the old structure and an adjacent building were demolished completely to the very foundations to permit erection of the new Liberty Theatre. It was found that deterioration of many years' standing had made salvage of any materials or equipment unwise.
Hence, the modern counterpart bears relation to the old solely in name and location. It is, in fact, a new theatre in every sense of that designation.
A Bright New Face Appears
The front of the new Liberty Theatre now covers an expanse nearly twice as broad as that formerly occupied by the old house. This was brought about by
the conversion of an old store building at one side of the theatre into a part of the reconstruction. The new building’s basic construction is of brick, with the central portion of the facade and the entire wainscot in modern, highly reflective vitreous material.
A small store with profitable rental possibilities is located at one side of the theatre entrance and a confectionery stand which is an integral part of the theatre is to be found on the other side. The centrally located V-shaped marquee with three lines of modern silhouette changeable letters and the massive lettered horizontal name-sign form a brilliant outdoor advertising display medium for the attractive new theatre. Dignified poster displays also add to the attraction of the front.
The lobby is located directly behind the entrance doors which flank the boxoffice and it also is wisely devoted to program exploitation in a refined manner. A particularly appealing foyer is entered by doors at the far end of the lobby. This portion of the theatre is separated from the auditorium merely by a modern contoured standee rail, serving to heighten interest in the decorative aspect of both rooms.
Indirect lighting in this room is especially attractive and functional. It is formed by luminous elements recessed in a semi-circular offset in the ceiling which extends from the standee rail pilasters into the center of the foyer. A glossy white ceiling onto which the light is thrown reflects in such a manner that the room is amply lighted but in no way glarey. Another indirect luminous unit of the cove type forms a portion of the standee rail and serves as a direction finder as well as decorative lighting effect.
A Complementary Color Scheme
The color scheme for the lobby and foyer, as well as the auditorium, is picked up from the carpeting which is used throughout the theatre in the same modern all-over pattern. A dark wainscot runs completely around the foyer and is carried on into the auditorium. It is topped by a light tone that goes to the ceiling. Simplicity of design and contour characterizes the decorative effect of the entire house.
The auditorium is spacious and comfortable both from the standpoint of restfulness and convenience. It seats 553 patrons, entirely on the main floor, and offers ample space between seats for feet and knees. The aisles also are wider than customary. Seating in the auditorium is of the latest comfort-type construction and is attractively upholstered to complement the decorative scheme of the room.
Acoustical materials were used most effectively in the auditorium to provide the finest possible sound reception. Wall decoration is secured by a damask-like
wall covering that is used above the wainscoting in panels about the room. The modern wall panels on either side of the auditorium are accented by square-cut white bands for additional interest.
Lighting in the auditorium is entirely indirect from large inverted circular fixtures in the ceiling and attractive modern luminous elements on the side walls. The cone-shaped ceiling fixtures are placed on a panel which runs the full length of the auditorium, adding greatly to the feeling of spaciousness in the room.
Effective stage curtain lighting also enhances the beauty of the auditorium.
The mezzanine floor of the theatre, located above the lobby, foyer and two stores at the front of the building, contains lounge rooms, offices, ladies' rest room, crying room and the projection booth. The Before—After—men’s room is located on the main floor at one side of the stairway leading to the space above.
Lounge provisions on the mezzanine are especially attractive and inviting to patron relaxation. The lounges are furnished with comfortable leather-upholstered chrome furniture, mirrors, smoking provisions and other accessories to effect a home-like atmosphere. Decoration here is in the form of horizontally graduated colors enhanced by indirect lighting.
A crying room for mothers of unconditioned young movie fans is located at a vantage place to one side of the projection room. It contains a large plate glass window, is equipped for perfect sound and is acousticized to hold in unruly noise.
Other services provided by the management to interest and hold patronage are free telephone service, courteous attendants and the best of picture presentation. This latter is insured by the latest available equipment in the projection booth for the most nearly perfect presentation of sight and sound.
The new building is also completely air conditioned for both summer and winter by a scientifically correct system. The new Liberty is said to be the first theatre in Springfield to have a complete year ‘round air conditioning system.
If we may finally wax poetic at this point, the new Liberty Theatre may be said to be of the phoenix-kind. It rose new-born from the embers of its predecessor—a new theatre to carry on the traditions, but in a much better manner, of the old Liberty. Its completed excellence offers indeed a remarkable case of property reclamation of the type that is sorely needed in many communities at this time.
(Racine Journal Times, November 22, 1977)
Yorkville squelches ‘X’-flicksBy Thomas RoanhouseJournal Times Staff
Y O R K V I L L E – Those X-rated movies may be legal,
but they’re apparently not welcome in the Town of Yorkville.
An estimated 100 Yorkville residents crowded into a hearing Monday, sponsored by the Racine County Board’s Land Use Committee, to publicly oppose a zoning change,
which would allow the operation of a mini-theater. Some
residents said they’d prefer an ammonia plant or a glue
factory to a theater which shows X-rated movies.
Mark Little of Kenosha had requested the zoning change.
Little had leased a building at 2036 N. Sylvania Ave. (1-94 west frontage road), Town of Yorkville, for the purpose of opening a mini-theater. The building has been renovated by Little to accommodate a theater.
Little and his attorneys, James and Giulio Fornary,
both of Racine, were the only persons who spoke in favor of the zoning change proposal.
The number of persons in opposition were seeemingly
much larger. The Land Use Committee heard testimony
from at least 16 persons and received three petitions and a letter indicating opposition to the change. One petition reportedly had 179 signatures, the other had 26 names and the third petition was not numbered.
All this transpired while an overflow crowd in the auditorium of the Racine County Highway Building looked on and offered supportive applause after nearly each person opposing the change had spoken.
James Fornary said the change “is more restrictive,”
than the existing zoning status and added the proposal
“would upgrade the zoning rather than downgrade it.”
Also, he said in addition to the theater, Little intends to develop a mini-shopping center to house between 10-12 businesses.
The mini-shopping center proposal was not listed on the
zoning change request submitted to the county, Little said later at the hearing.
Fornary contended the approval of the proposal “would
be good for the community because the area should have
a shopping center and it would bring in more revenue
for taxes.” “It would elevate the area,” he said.
Little, who holds a one-year lease on the property from its owner Al Buder, told the committee and residents, “when developed it would lend itself to the area and give residents a chance of of convenience.”
He also said he has sublet part of it “which might be the cause of some of my problems.”
He did not say to whom the property had been sublet to. However, after the meeting when questioned by a
reporter, he said it was sublet to Don Thomas of Parkway Theater, Milwaukee, which shows X-rated movies regularly.
Giulio Fornary testified under the existing zoning “an ammonia plant, asbestos plants, chlorine factory or glue factory, a foundry, a creamery or a cement plant are things you can do now. This zoning proposal is
Fornary continued “I know what you people are afraid of
– X-Rated movies. There’s not a movie house that
doesn’t show X-rated movies once in a while – it’s legal.
"X-Rated is not porno. If you don’t want porno, fine –
enforce the law. Mr. Little does not intend to show it.” he said.
“You cant use zoning for censorship. That’s wrong,” said Fornary.
Don Haas, who said he lived south of the property in
question, was the first person to speak in opposition.
He said he had read in an advertisment that Parkway
Theater was planning on opening a Parkway South in
the near future. “The stuff Parkway shows Is perfectly
legal, but it’s trash,” he said.
Hass said he telephoned Parkway and asked them where their new theater was going to open. “They told me at a site south of Highway K, west of 1-94, and north of Highway 20 and obviously that (Little’s leased building) is suppose to be be Parkway South.
"I’ll take the ammonia plant or the glue factory before
I take that,” Haas said.
Yorkville Town Attorney Ken Hostack said “first of all,
he renovated the building without a building permit.”
And then he said, “lets look at this purely for zoning.” Hostack said a shopping center would not be consistent with the other types of businesses in the area, such as an automotive salvage yard and said the area “is zoned for where public sewer Is available.”
And, he added, the Town of Yorkvllle’s proposed sewer
collection system doesn’t go near the area where Little
has plans to develop a shopping center.
Marlene Hass told the committee “I was shocked when I
heard the presentation tonight about a shopping center.
I was in the zoning office Wednesday and the zoning request on file is for a minitheater only and there was
nothing there for for a shopping center.” Plus, she said “Parkway is strictly trash. It scares me.”
Marion Cole, who said she owns the motel across the
street from the building, said “the roads are too narrow to serve a shopping center. They’d get congested, plus there’s no on-or off-ramps for the freeway.”
She cautioned “once he gets his doors open, he can do
whatever he pleases. It’s time we take a stand for morality once-and-for-all and say were not going to allow this.”
Lila Neil, who echoed Mrs. Cole’s comments, also said “I think, in what he’s shown us so far, his word in no good.”
William Swenson said “ I’m diametrically opposed and I’ll fight it all the way to the courts.”
James Miller, who said he recently moved to the Town
of Yorkville from Milwaukee, said “I moved to this town to get away from this stuff.”
Art Osinga said “let’s not always think of the children, but lets take a stand as adults.” He then said “we may be from the country, but don’t think they can pull the wool over our eyes.”
Berdette Gulbrand said he didn’t oppose the shopping
center, but said “ I’m against a pornographic theater.”
Jerry Olson suggested Little and his associates post a
$1 million bond for 10 years. “If they’re so honest, put up the bond for 10 years and tell us there’ll be no porno.”
Frances Nocarsci, who said she recently moved to the
area, said “my first reaction was to sell my house when I heard about this. Now my reaction is not to sell it, but to stand up and fight against it.”
Testimony opposing the zoning change also was submitted
by representatives of area schools, churches, 4-H
groups and parent-teacher groups.
Apparently the testimony filed at the hearing, in effect, was nothing more than a public forum. Under Racine County zoning laws, if either the County Board or the local municipality goes on record of opposing
a zoning change, the request is denied. Joe McGauran, a planner at the county’s zoning und planning office, said “We’ve received a letter from the Yorkville Town Board which said the board passed a resolution on Nov. 14 opposing this zoning change request.”
The Racine County Board still must act on the proposal,
but with the Town of Yorkville’s zoning change denial,
any County Board action would be merely academic at
HUBERT J. SOENS, formerly of 10 McKlnley Ave. passed away at 83 in the West View Nursing Home on Friday evening, March 28, 1975. Mr. Soens was born in Racine
on Nov. 2, 1891 and had lived there all of his life. In Racine in 1929 he married the former Mabel Johnson. Mr. Soens was a motion picture operator for the Rialto Theater for many years. Surviving him were his wife, Mabel; three daughters, Doris Thuriat of Racine,
Isabelle Hyder of Long Beach, Cal., and Florence Bouterse of Kenosha; one brother, Aloys Soens of Kenosha; two sisters, Mrs. Rose Andersen and Mrs. John Olsen, both of Racine; grandchildren, great
grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other relatives
also survive. Private funeral services were held in the
WILSON FUNERAL HOME, 1139 Blaine Ave., Wednesday,
April 2, 1975 at 10 a.m. with Rev. George Overdier. Interment in Mound Cemetery. There was no visitation.
July 4, 1958.
KENOSHA Theatre manager Bill Exton.
Chewing gum removed from floors, seats and elsewhere at the KENOSHA Theatre, Kenosha, Wisconsin (1938).
(March 3, 1950)
Frank N. Consago, 61, of 1257 N. Mason avenue, Chicago, owner of the new Elm theatre now being erected and scheduled to open in Wauconda early in March was killed in an auto-truck collision on U. S. highway 66 near the north city limits of Pontiac,
in Livingston county. Also killed in the crash was Mrs. Isabelle Rizza, 36, of Chicago, who was riding with Mr. Consago.
Leonard J. Deasey of Wauconda was born Feb. 25, 1927, in Chicago. Burial was in Transfiguration Cemetery, Wauconda. He died Thursday, Dec. 2, 1993 at Winchester
House Nursing Home, Libertyville. Mr. Deasey retired from the Wauconda Post Office after 36 years of service. He was a Navy veteran of World War II. He was a member of American Legion Post #911, Wauconda. He
was Past Grand Knight and member of Knights of Columbus Queen of Angels Council, past president
and member of the Wauconda Chamber of Commerce, the Wauconda Lions Club, and member of Transfiguration Church, Wauconda. He managed the Elm Theater for 15 years. He was the husband of Estelle (nee Lauletta); father of Victoria (Vern) Paddock of Gurnee, IL, Kathi of Libertyville, Toni (Jack) Kappel of Palatine, Elizabeth (Dominic) Blasco of Wauconda, and Stephen (Julie) of Island Lake, IL.; brother of Patrick
“Jim” (the late Trudy) of Davis, IL. and Marge Selin of Palatine, and grandfather of nine.
Visitation was from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, 1993 at the funeral home. For information (708) 526-2115.
On New Year’s Eve of 1947, the ZION Theatre opened following a move by the Zion, Illinois city council that rescinded old municipal laws that had prohibited the screening of motion pictures. The city’s first theatre had opened in 1913, but was raided by the police and ordered closed by the mayor.
The owners of the new ZION Theatre quickly ruffled feathers by announcing in April of 1948 that the theatre would open on Sundays in defiance of the city’s “blue laws” forbidding business on Sunday.
Zion’s blue laws had gone into effect with the founding of the city in 1901. Blue laws have been used since Colonial times and originally were directed at prohibiting such things as gambling and the consumption of alcohol. In the 19th century, various American state and local governments had begun passing blue laws based on Christian beliefs of honoring the Sabbath that forbade businesses from operating on Sunday.
In their defense, the ZION Theatre owners pointed out that the ordinance was already being compromised by restaurants and drug stores, and furthermore added that the annual Zion Passion Play, which charged admission, also conducted business on Sunday.
Three of the ZION Theatre’s owners were Lake County board supervisors Martin B. Ruesch, Edwin Gus Peterson, and Frank L. Davis.
On Sunday, April 11, 1948, the owners of the ZION Theatre and the neighboring bowling alley opened their businesses and were promptly arrested.
Zion’s Chief of Police Alven Ruesch, bearing a complaint issued by Zion Mayor Richard Hire, arrested Onnie Bridges (the police chief’s brother-in-law) at the ZION Theatre, and then went down the street to the bowling alley and arrested Otto Lawrence.
The ban on Sunday movies and other amusements was upheld by Judge Ralph Dady of the Circuit Court in Waukegan, the Lake County seat, in August of 1948. Following this ruling, the theatre owners circulated a petition requesting a special election to determine whether the ban on Sunday business should be repealed.
Despite a vigorous campaign by pro-theatre/pro-amusement forces, on December 21 of 1948 Zion residents voted to retain the blue laws by a vote of 1,756 to 1,564. The city council then voted to enforce the prohibition of Sunday trade, including even the sale and delivery of ice cream, milk, and newspapers. (A drug store across the street owned by a prominent citizen was permitted to remain open on Sundays to “sell only emergency drugs and ice cream consumed on the premises.”)
Business owners continued to work toward the repeal, and on April 5, 1949, another vote of Zion residents was taken. This time voters were in favor of the repeal … 1,746 to 966, which brought 48 years of blue laws in Zion to an end.
In both 1950 and 1951, diehard proponents of the blue laws brought the issue back to voters, who voted against their reinstatement.
In May of 1959, it was announced that the ZION Theatre would close. Hinting at the onslaught of free television, Onnie Bridges, president of the Zion Theater Corporation, stated that the closing was dictated by his desire to retire “rather than failing audiences.”
The ELM Theatre is featured within the letter ‘U’ in this Curt Teich postcard.
The ELM Theater was located at Liberty (Route 176) and Mill Streets in Wauconda. There was parking for 125 cars. The ELM was featured in a large-letter Curt Teich postcard featuring Wauconda landmarks within the letter “U”. Through the 1960s, the ELM’s program listings appeared in the Daily Herald.
And then in 1967, the historic Transfiguration Roman Catholic Church purchased the ELM, reportedly because they feared “purchase by others would hinder the expansion program of the church.” The church members at first volunteered as staff ushers and cashiers before leasing the ELM to a Leonard Deasey, whose children and friends staffed the theatre. The church’s control mandated that only National Legion of Decency-approved films were screened at the ELM.
The ELM Theatre was demolished in 1984. Church spokesmen offered the explanation that it “could no longer subsidize it,” and soon built a new church was built on the site where the ELM Theatre had been.
Recently, an original sign from the Elm Theater was donated by Glen Halverson to the Lake County Discovery Museum nearby.
(November 8, 2010)
WOODSTOCK —As the Capitol Theatre is slowly being demolished, it can’t help but bring back a flood of memories for a former projectionist who once worked there.
“The curtain has finally fallen,” commented 94-year-old Woodstock resident John Faulkner, who worked at the theatre as both a projectionist and maintenance man.
Faulkner remembers falling in love with the theatre as a child, going to the movies at the Capitol Theatre when it was still known as the Griffith Opera House.
“There were three (levels of ) box seats on either side of the stage and a orchestra pit in front of the stage.” he said. “The musicians played music to the mood of the film show.”
The lower floor had two aisles and a standing rail stretched across the back as theatergoers entered the auditorium; a horseshoe shaped railing, painted brilliant red, gold and green, curved around the upper balconies.
“It did look so grand,” he recalls.
Faulkner said he remembers band concerts and vaudeville acts at the theatre, and has fond memories of a Christmas party for children held at the Capitol by local druggist Frank Hyde.
“In 1927, sound arrived, now began what has been termed at the movies as the golden age,” he said.
“I ran whatever came along, but as far as my favourite movies, they were Showboat, The Greatest Show on Earth, Dr. Zhivago, Sound of Music and a series of Broadway melodies.”
Faulkner said his ultimate all-time favourite movie was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
At the time he became a projectionist, there were at two theatres in Woodstock, the Capitol and the Princess Theatre, which once stood on the current location of the RecordWorks, and where Faulkner received his projectionist apprentice licence in 1935.
Faulkner said he decided on his career choice because, during the Great Depression, “they were the only guys who had work.”
“People always had a dime to go to a show to break the monotony of the depression days,” he said.
Soon after, Faulkner joined the war effort as a leading aircraftsman with the Royal Canadian Air Force, studying Radar and advanced use of frequencies.
As a member of the auxiliary services, Faulkner said he remembers running the matinee and evening shows on a landing ship tank shortly before the troops landed in Normandy.
“While overseas, I heard of the changes at the Capitol Theatre. It was that the upper balcony was in danger of collapsing and the theatre inspection branch said it must be replaced by cement floors in both upper and lower areas,” he said. “This was done and the curved balcony and boxes were lost, replaced by a straight balcony railing that crossed the theatre.”
After returning from the war, he worked as a projectionist at the Princess Theatre and still has in his possession the yellowed typed notice he received when they closed the theatre down just days before he married his wife, Kathleen Stone, in 1946.
Faulkner later found work at several cinemas across the region, but when Sunday movies became vogue at the Capitol Theatre, he was recruited to fill in so the projectionist could have the day off .
After the war, the Capitol was purchased by Thomas Naylor, who “twinned” the theatre by building a new upper stage and a second projection booth and candy bar below the stage.
More modern memories include some antics by local youth during a filming of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“We had an unruly crowd — they got so rowdy and were jumping from seat to seat,” he said. “They were jumping up and down and flicking their Bics.”
Despite its ups and downs, Faulkner worked long past the normal age of retirement.
“I enjoyed this work and retired at 75,” he said.
SAN FRANCISCO, June 1, 1930 —(A/P)—
A blast, believed by police to have been caused by dynamite, early today tore off part of the roof of the
Royal theater, residential district motion picture house of the T. & D. circuit on Polk near California
street. No one was injured. The explosion aroused the neighborhood for blocks and sent fire apparatus and police to the theater.
A hole five feet across was found torn in the roof directly above the projection room.
Police said the blast might have resulted from recent labor disputes.
Jim and Mike Krekling of Krekling Painting helped on 2010 exterior facade restorations at the GRANADA. Rossi Construction as general contractor did tuckpointing and in the process, five previously-covered decorative bottle-glass windows were discovered above the entrance, and are now visible. Two of the five had been damaged, but were replicated. It’s true that the auditorium floor was leveled during its warehouseing years, but the stage and proscenium still stand intact above the new floor. I think the city is being unfair by demanding six dozen parking spaces before granting an occupancy permit, as a shuttle bus could easily carry visitors to other available nearby parking areas.
October 24, 1955- The Austin Theater, after operating 18 years, closed its doors on its final performance Saturday night. The building was purchased from the Minnesota Amusement Co. by Otto and William Baudler, who plan to remodel it in the near future for a store building.
W. F. McKallor, who opened the Austin theater as manager in April, 1937, was present at the closing Saturday night for the final checking out.
The Austin opened in the early years of modern architecture and was described as “ultramodern, but not modernistic or saucy.”
The opening movie, “Park Avenue Logger,” was attended by a capacity house of 506. The closing bill included Abbott and Costello in “Lost In Alaska” and “The Great Sioux Uprising” with Jeff Chandler and Faith Domergue. The movie projector, and other equipment and furnishings, will be removed by the Minnesota Amusement Co. The closing leaves three year-round theaters in the city, Paramount, Sterling and State, and the Outdoor theater.
(Delphos, Ohio – Sept. 25, 1930)
Ellsworth Staup has returned to Delphos after being present at the opening of the New Princess Theater
at Wauseon. The theater there is owned by Messrs. Ellsworth and Paul Staup, proprietors of the Capitol theater in this city. It is managed by Staup.
The picture “Top Speed” was the attraction at the opening of the playhouse. The attendance was large. A number of Delphos people were present for the opening. Favors were distributed by the owners of the theater. The Messrs. Staup bought the theatre in August and ran it into September when they closed it for a period of three weeks during which time it was completely remodeled and sound equipment was installed. The theater is now in excellent condition. It seats four hundred people.
Theater To Bring Stage Shows Here
Under the new policy of operation under Standard Theaters management, stage shows will be introduced at the Mainstreet Theater starting May 13. Radio, stage,
and screen personalities will be booked for performances, according to Francis Schlax, southern
district manager for the new operators.
Extensive remodeling and redecorating are under way at the theater, in which new carpeting and new equipment will be installed.
Bud Nelson has been named Mainstreet manager by
Standard Theaters Corporation, which operates 25 theaters in key Wisconsin cities, including the
Riverside Theater in Milwaukee.
L. F. Gran, Milwaukee, is president of the organization.
Manager William “Bill” Exton at his desk. Bill would later retire from the ROOSEVELT Theatre in about 1970.
This marquee dates to 1963. As is evident, it’s in need of relamping; note the numerous missing bulbs.
Stage Carpenter at the Rhode Opera House Suffers Injury.
Sept. 20, 1907 — Joseph Faulhaber, a stage carpenter, was injured at the Rhode opera house Thursday night when the big steel fire curtain fell with a crash at the close of the performance by the Grace Hayward company.
Fortunately none of the stage people who had thronged the stage a minute earlier were caught under the falling curtain.
Faulhaber was caught in the machinery in an effort to stop the fall of the curtain.
The occurrence caused great excitement in the crowd which was leaving the theatre.
I believe this theatre (or at least its exterior) is featured in the 1968 20th Century-Fox film “Pretty Poison” with Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld, screening “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”.
Kenosha Theatre projectionist Elmer George Hayek, 84, of Springfield, Illinois and formerly of Kenosha, WI, passed away at 5:00 p.m., November 5, 2001 at his residence. He was born June 23, 1917 in Detroit, MI, the son of George and Mary Exton Hayek. He married Alice Louise Reis in Lake Geneva, WI on August 30, 1938 and she preceded him in death in 1995. He moved to Kenosha at age 16 to work for his uncle, William “Bill” Exton at the Roosevelt Theater. Later in life, he was a motion picture operator at the Kenosha, Orpheum, Roosevelt, Gateway, and Keno theaters. He then worked as a linotype operator and foreman of the composing room at Lloyd Hollister Printing and Pioneer Press in Wilmette, IL. Mr. Hayek lived in Kenosha from 1950 until 1999 when he moved to Springfield, IL. Mr. Hayek was a member of Bristol Oaks Country Club, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and was a volunteer for the Kenosha Memorial Hospital. He had also served his country in the U.S. Army during World War II. He enjoyed playing golf and was devoted to his family. He was also preceded in death by his parents, and a brother: Albert. He is survived by a daughter: Susan (husband, Michael) Shaw of Springfield; a sister: Evelyn Willard of Mena, AR; a grandson: Scot Shaw of Cambridge, MA; and a nephew: George Hayek of El Dorado Hills, CA. Remains were cremated and Private Memorial Services will be observed at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made to the Adams Wildlife Sanctuary, 2315 Clearlake Ave., Springfield, IL 62703. (The Kirlin-Egan and Butler Funeral Home and Cremation Tribute Center, 900 S. 6th St., Springfield, IL.)