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Correction: This was the GALLERY Theatre, built and operated by Henry Landa.
Children stand in line at the ZION Theatre, celebrating the repeal of the blue laws which had prohibited movies to be shown on Sundays. (Chicago Sun-Times photograph, April 11, 1949.)
The architect was G. H. Pridmore of 35 West Dearborn Street, Chicago.
1927 – Rumors circulate about the construction of a new theater next to the Agner Auto Co. garage on Geneva Street.
1928 – The Plaza Theater opens at the Agner site; over 1,200 in attendance. Vaudeville acts added later in the year.
1930 – New sound equipment installed at the Plaza and at the Crystal.
1931 – Kapitan, son of canine movie star Rin Tin Tin, appears live at the Plaza.
1931 – Stink bombs set off at the Crystal and Plaza.
1933 – Cowboy singing legend Gene Autry appears at the Plaza.
1938 – New air conditioning equipment installed at the Plaza.
1951 – Plaza remodeled; new candy counter and mural of Echo Lake are added.
1952 – Presidential candidate Harold E. Stassen speaks at the Plaza.
1953 – Plaza outfitted for three-dimensional films. Later in the year the screen is adjusted to accommodate wide-screen showings.
1989 – Steve and Dana Lind buy Plaza Theater from Mary Jane Faust.
1997 – $1.1 million three-screen addition added to Plaza.
1909 – Fenn Building on Chestnut Street becomes home to the Crystal Theater.
1910 – Owners of Crystal Theater announce plans to build new theater at Pine Street and Geneva Street (Commerce Street and Milwaukee Avenue). It opens in February 1911. The Vandette Theater opens in the Fenn Building, the former home to the Crystal. It closes operation in a month.
1935 – Crystal Theatre becomes the State Theatre.
1953 – City Council votes to buy property where State Theatre is located for construction of a parking lot.
(March 14, 2014, by Richard Ryman, Green Bay Press-Gazette)
GREEN BAY — Gravity, the movie, did well in theaters, but gravity, the law of physics, is not being kind to Green Bay’s Meyer Theatre. Among several maintenance issues requiring attention, the ceiling in the main auditorium is beginning to lose its paint. To be clear, the ceiling isn’t unsafe. Parts aren’t falling on patrons and the acoustics aren’t affected, but at some point the deterioration will need to be addressed.
After more than 80 years, gravity is taking over, said general manager Matt Goebel. “They didn’t clean it to what was needed when they repainted it in the 1930s,” he said, and the paint is beginning to separate from the acoustic material.
In February, the Meyer board launched a $4.5 million capital campaign. Of that, $3 million will be used to renovate and expand the adjacent former Daily Planet building, $1 million will go to doubling the theater’s endowment and $500,000 for major maintenance on the 84-year-old structure.
Fox Theatres Inc. opened a 2,037-seat vaudeville theater and movie house at 117 S. Washington St. on Valentine’s Day 1930. By the time it closed in 1998, it had become a triplex movie theater with most of its Spanish Atmospheric interior — highlighted by heavily textured plaster, decorative columns and intricate painted designs and statues — covered up or removed. A community-based restoration project that returned it to its original 1930s look allowed it to reopen Feb. 27, 2002, as The Robert T. Meyer Theatre.
Theater director Julie Lamine said the 1998-2000 renovation focused on getting the building restored and reopened. “Now we are the next group. It’s our job to leave it in good shape for the group after us,” she said. “This part of the whole three-pronged campaign is very vital.”
Fixing the ceiling is going to be tricky and won’t be done soon. A lot of scaffolding will have to be built and the theater closed for six to eight weeks. The material will have to be lightly sanded or washed by hand and repainted. The work likely will be done in summer, either in 2015 or 2016, said Mike Karcz, head of the theater’s building committee. It’s the slowest time of the year and continuing shows, such as those by Let Me Be Frank Productions, might be able to perform in the new Backstage at the Meyer space, as the renovated Daily Planet will be called. Karcz said they’ll also look for a way to make track-lights accessible, perhaps by allowing them to be pulled up into the ceiling, which has a work space above it.
Also, the theater entrance will receive an upgrade. The front of the Meyer has several issues, including an uneven sidewalk and a terrazzo surface near its front doors that was not originally intended to be outside. It easily gets slippery.
The curb in front of the theater is not handicap accessible, and for certain events cars are lined up in the street as people wait to unload and navigate to the sidewalk, Karcz said.
The front of the theater is not deep enough for a vestibule, so it’s difficult to keep that area warm on cold days. Goebel said a revolving door in the middle of the glass entrance and handicap-access doors on each side might be an improvement. Another possibility is heating elements above the doors, Karcz said. “We are working with the historical part of the building — the lobby — so we are limited to what we can do,” he said. It will help that Backstage at the Meyer also will provide an entrance to the main theater. Outside, the east wall needs brick work; pointing and capping. Some of that work was done earlier, but more remains. Karcz said roof work might also be done as part of the Backstage at the Meyer project.
Maintenance of this sort will be an ongoing requirement. The building committee meets monthly to review the theater’s needs. “It’s 84 years old. The challenge is you’re trying to keep the characteristics of the old building,” Karcz said.
The theater’s offices and dressing rooms recently received an upgrade from VerHalen Inc. of Ashwaubenon, which donated the labor and material, Karcz said. The rooms received new carpets, furniture, paint and lighting.
A new traditionally-styled 24-by-24-foot aluminum marquee and vertical sign is planned by owner Lee Barczak for his Avalon Theatre, expected to reopen this summer after a 14-year dark spell.
The Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission says the bronze-toned vertical will spell AVALON in large red letters trimmed in frosted gold and was designed by Ascend Design in Muskego, Wisconsin. Though not a replica of the original vertical sign, it honors the theatre’s era and heritage. Energy-saving electronic LED lighting will be used on attraction boards, “Not features found on historic theater signs, but increasingly necessary to meet the needs of the movie theater business today,” according to a MHPC spokesman.
Ascend Design’s goal with the vertical: “glorif(y) the existing architecture while paying homage to both the aesthetics and principles of the atmospheric type movie theaters of the 1920s…combining elements of the existing design with the use of modern materials and technological components,” according to the plan, and will cost about $50,000 out of the project’s total $1.8 million cost.
Opening night at the new 41 Twin Outdoor Theatre in Franklin, Wisconsin on July 1, 1948.
Commonwealth Companies' boutique-hotel plans in the Retlaw Theater have been replaced by a plan for office/ retail space and 10 apartments. Louie Lange III is president of The Commonwealth Companies. The Retlaw auditorium facing Sheboygan and Portland streets would be razed for parking. Commonwealth says it intends to renovate the Retlaw facade facing Main Street “in a way that would complement the historic nature of Main Street”.
Wempner’s School of Dance owner Ann Kelly has been opposed to demolition of the Retlaw Theater and is unsure if she would stay in the building. Her lease continues through 2016. Kelly said a group of people interested in preserving the historic theater has no imminent plans for action. Still, Kelly would like to see the theater brought to life. “Is it not worth a chance to make it work?” she said. Lange says the theatre portion of the building has “lost its viability” and questioned whether more theater space is needed in Fond du Lac. “Are there groups out there that right now don’t have theater space to operate?” he asked.
City of Fond du Lac Community Development Director Wayne Rollin said the condition of the buildings has worsened “alarmingly” over the past several years. He said the roof leaks badly, the basement floor is under water, mold is an issue and electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems need to be replaced, the elevator hasn’t been working since fall, and “it would cost millions to restore the theater”, Rollin said, adding “If this proposal doesn’t work out the community will face the probability of condemnation and complete demolition of the entire complex in the near future, at public expense,” in a memo to Fond du Lac City Manager Joe Moore.
Dyann Benson, the city’s redevelopment planner, said the Retlaw theater property has been for sale for about five years. No one has proposed restoring the theater during that time. “In order to really invest in restoration, you have to have a return on the investment on the back end,” she said, adding that there would continue to be operating and maintenance costs and other expenses.
Hundreds say goodbye to fallen firefighter Jamison Kampmeyer (Fri 6:40 PM, Mar 09, 2012, WEAU-TV, by Aaron Dimick)
COLBY, Wis. (WEAU) — Hundreds of people came out Friday morning to say goodbye to a hero. Jamison Kampmeyer, a firefighter and sheriff’s deputy was laid to rest in his hometown of Colby. The 34-year-old father of three was one of five local firefighters injured while trying to save the Abbey Theater in Abbotsford from a devastating fire.
Kampmeyer passed away from those injuries Sunday night.
His funeral was held at Colby High School followed by a massive final tribute. Flags flew at half staff outside the school and across Wisconsin, following Governor Scott Walker’s order to honor Jamison Kampmeyer. “He was a hero and a good leader. He was a good friend of mine and was very active and great in the community,” said friend Jeff Sobpa.
Friends and family of Kampmayer who came to the funeral were supported by hundreds of firefighters, police officers, sheriff deputies and people from all around.
Megan Arrias of Abbotsford said she feels for Kampmeyer’s wife. “Having three kids myself, I can’t imagine what she’s going through right now. Did they get to say goodbye? You never know what will be their last moment; they put their life on the line everyday,” Arrias said.
Although cameras weren’t allowed inside Colby High, we know the school’s gym was packed with mourners. Two overflow rooms with video screens were also filled to capacity. Mourners told WEAU 13 News that the funeral mass started with kind words about the Colby Volunteer Firefighter and Marathon County Sheriff’s Deputy.
Some of those words came from Governor Scott Walker, who spoke at the funeral.
“He also did a really neat thing at the end when he thanked his parents and wife and told everyone that it’s their responsibility to let his kids know that he was a hero,” said Jenn Rassett, a friend of Jamison Kampmeyer.
Firefighters who came to show unity said Kampmeyer had a passion for law enforcement and firefighting. “He was one of those guys that you could count on for anything. You’d call and he’d be there,” said Jay Thums, a friend from the Rib Lake Fire Department.
A massive procession of emergency vehicles escorted Kampmeyer to his final resting place. One firefighters told WEAU that about 250 emergency vehicles from several neighboring states were in the procession. Local kids crafted signs along the route to show their gratitude.
“He was a great guy. It’s a loss. I’m glad I got to know him,” Rassett said.
That History Column: ‘’‘’ ‘Kenosha Theater was one of first in the world to screen ‘The Wizard of Oz’ ‘’‘’ (Kenosha News, February 2, 2013, by Diane Giles)
“We’re not in Kansas anymore” is a phrase that slipped into our vernacular in 1939, along with a number of other gems from the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie, “The Wizard of Oz.”
The phrase could have just as well been “We’re not in Kenosha anymore,” as Kenosha was one of two locales that were the first in the world to show the movie on the big screen.
The film was shown to the public on Friday, Aug. 11, 1939, right here at The Gateway Theater (now known as the Rhode Center for the Arts) in Kenosha, and at the Cape Cinema on Cape Cod in Dennis, Mass.
You heard right. Forget Oconomowoc, who has claimed that honor for more than 30 years — it showed the film the day after we did in Kenosha.
(For the record, the movie was shown at the Strand Theatre in Oconomowoc and at the Venetian Theatre in Racine on Aug. 12.)
For Joe Cardamone, the stage and music director of Lakeside Players’ production of the “The Wizard of Oz” on stage this month at the Rhode, it’s an exciting little piece of trivia.
“It’s sort of odd to think that it would have played at some of these smaller venues before opening in a big city,” Cardamone said. “To think that it not only played in Kenosha first, but at this very theater.”
Newspaper advertisements show that as of Aug. 9, Gateway Theater manager T.R. Reilly planned on opening the film Saturday, Aug. 12, but the Aug. 10 ad announced the Wizard would be shown “Tomorrow.”
The Kenosha crowds got their first glimpse of the yellow brick road at the Friday matinee.
Why did Reilly jump the gun?
“They may have gotten the print early; they may have been doing lousy business with the films they had showing in the latter part of that week,” suggested John Fricke, one of the authors of “Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History,” in a 1991 interview.
Or it could have been because Aug. 11 was the last day a patron could obtain Volume One of the Standard American Encyclopedia, the promotion offered at the Gateway at that time.
Theater promotions of the day enticed people back to the movies to collect a set of dishes — one piece per admission — and other household items.
If people didn’t get that first volume of this encyclopedia, chances are they wouldn’t be interested in the remaining 14 volumes. And the theater owner might have been stuck with the books.
By Aug. 11, “Over the Rainbow” was No. 4 on the list of the top 10 sheet-music sellers, a measure comparable to the to 40 songs of today.
The Kenosha Evening News in conjunction with the theater ran a coloring contest depicting Oz characters, so the excitement for the film was building.
“The Wizard of Oz” played at the Gateway for six days. After just four days of showing, the theater claimed that 8,000 patrons had seen the feature.
Showing the film at all these small-town theater venues does seem a bit weird when you consider that the movie had its West Coast premiere in Hollywood at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Aug. 15, and it opened in New York two days later on Aug. 17.
But we shouldn’t be too hard on Oconomowoc.
The movie was advertised there as a world premiere, as the Milwaukee film distributor advised the Strand owners Harley and Ruth Huebner that they were the first to exhibit the film.
Someone just forgot to tell that to Mr. Reilly.
If there isn’t room for the main column and at least two photos, don’t run this sidebar. It’s interesting, but not essential. DG
Oddly enough, MGM lost nearly $1 million on the first release of “The Wizard of Oz.” The production, distribution, prints and advertising costs did not offset the gross of $3,335,000 the picture took in.
Author and “Wizard of Oz” expert John Fricke explained that there were three reasons for this:
— The glut of incoming film product. A picture couldn’t be held over for more than a day or two because Hollywood was cranking out too many films.
— Even though the theaters were filled for each showing, as much as half of the audience were children who were admitted at cut rate prices.
(Antioch News; May 25, 1961)
Funeral services were held at 1:30 p.m. yesterday in Joliet for Fred B. Swanson, 71, of 479 Naber, prominent resident, who died Friday in Victory Memorial Hospital, Waukegan.
Fellow Masons, business acquaintances and friends paid tribute to the movie theater executive and prominent member of Masonic organizations, who lay in state at Strang’s in Antioch Saturday and Sunday, at a chapel in Chicago on Monday and Tuesday, and at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Chicago from Wednesday morning until final
Mr. Swanson had undergone surgery last June to have a battery-powered heart-pumping device installed in his body. He died of a heart ailment.
He was born Dec, 15, 1889 in Stockholm, Sweden, and was
brought by his parents to this country the next year. The family settled In Joliet. He had lived in Gary, Ind. before moving to Antioch 36 years ago.
Before his retirement he had owned theaters In Antioch, Savanna, Joliet, McHenry, Evanston and Gary.
He was a 33d Degree Mason and member of Gary Lodge 677 F & AM; Gary Chapter 139 Royal Arch Masons;; Waukegan Commandery 12; Red Cross Constantine Premier 1; Scottish Rite Body, Valley of Chicago; board of directors, Scottish Rite Cathedral Association of Chicago.
He was a life member, Medinah Temple, Chicago; Royal Order of Justice, Court 48; honorary member Sequoit Lodge 827 AF & AM; Siloam Council 53, Royal and Select Masters of State of Illinois; Lake County Shrine Club; honorary Legion of Honor, International Supreme Council of “Order of DeMolay; Millburn Booster Club, DeMolay; Waukegan Swedish Glee Club; life member Gary Elks Lodge.
He held other high posts in Masonic organizations and was active in activities of the Order of the Rainbow for Girls.
Surviving are his widow, Alma; two brothers, William N., Joliet, and Oscar T., Lockport; and a sister, Mrs. John Harrington, Birmingham, Ala.
The Rev. Wallace Anderson conducted religious services at Strang’s on Sunday evening.
Interment was in Elmhurst cemetery, Joliet.
(Oshkosh Northwestern, June 7, 1936:
ATTORNEY’S OFFICE STILL IS BESIEGED
Milwaukee — The six sitting Atanasoffs, who have besieged the city attorney’s office since Friday, were reduced to five today. Andon Atanasoff was in court answering a divorce summons served by his wife, Florence. Andon’s three brothers, Joseph IsMiir and Angel, and the latter’s two wives remained in the office demanding a rehearing of grievances by the common council judiciary committee, which was to meet this afternoon. They charge they lost the World theater last February as the result of a conspiracy and ask that the council pass a resolution they have submitted asking speed in a federal inquiry into their charge. Members of the city attorney’s staff said the brothers apparently had shaved yesterday but that the group looked weary after sleeping three nights on hard benches.
(Oshkosh Northwestern, Sept. 8, 1937) ATANASOFF HAS NO FEAR, NOT EVEN JAIL, SO JUDGE GIVES HIM 4-MONTH TERM Milwaukee: – Sit-downer Andon Atanasoff today faced a four-month sit-down — in the house of correction. Andon, who with his five brothers staged a sit-down in the city attorney’s office in protest against foreclosure on their theater, was sentenced for failure to pay alimony to his divorced wife, Florence. When Andon told Circuit Judge William F. Shaughnessy that he was unable to pay back alimony, Mrs. Atanasoff’s attorney told the court that Andon was “afraid of nothing but jail.” That nettled Andon. “Ha, I am afraid of nothing,” he snorted. “Bring on your jailer.” The judge did.
(Film Daily, May 25, 1936) The Northern Lakes theater, Phelps, has opened for the season and will play pictures every night starting June 13. The house is installing a new cooling system.
(Film Daily, May 12, 1936) The CAMEO Theater, opened recently by Standard Theater Co., and operated for several weeks as a first-run, is again dark.
(Antioch News; May 1, 1919)
The Majestic Theater Moved to New Location
The Majestic theater was moved to its new location last Sunday afternoon.
The Naber store has been completely remodeled and is now as moddern and up to date a show house as will be found in much larger places.
The seating capacity is one hundred and seventy-five. A new gold fiber curtain has been purchased and was
installed Wednesday afternoon by an expert from Chicago. Many changes have been made in the equipment and every effort will be made to give only first class shows.
The first play to be given in the new location is “The Greatest Thing In Life.” This is a Griffith production,
and is something you can’t afford to miss. The first show starts at 7:00 o'clock sharp.
April 17, 1936: Car Upsets and Lands in Ditch; Driver Hurt
When Francis Schlax, 4815 Twentieth avenue, Kenosha, lost control of his auto on Highway 38 near Seven Mile road yesterday afternoon it darted across the roadway, struck a guywire, crashed into a pile of rocks and bounded 60 feet into a ditch. Mr. Schlax suffered a fractured arm and lacerations of the head. He is at St. Mary’s hospital. The car rolled over three or four times, it was reported to Undersheriff Roscoe Pease and Deputy Allen Healy, and came to a stop with the front end of the auto buried in the ground.
On March 9, 2012, the National Response Team (NRT) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with agents from the ATF St. Paul Field Division and State of Wisconsin-Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation-State Fire Marshal’s Office completed the investigation into the cause of fire at the Abby Theatre, 216 N. 1st St., Abbotsford, Wis. One firefighter was killed and four injured during fire suppression efforts.
The cause of the fire was ruled to be accidental, announced Wisconsin State Fire Marshal Director Tina R. Virgil and John Schmidt, Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC), St. Paul Field Division. Investigators said the fire started in the lobby area of the theatre and was accidental in nature.
Schmidt said “Over the past six days investigators have taken countless photographs, inspected and examined artifacts recovered from the scene and conducted more than 60 interviews. The information developed was reviewed and analyzed to assist in determining the cause of the fire.”
On that Sunday at approximately 12:16 p.m., the Abbotsford Fire Department (AFD) received a call of a report of fire at the Abby Theatre. Abbotsford immediately requested mutual aid from the Colby, Owen-Withee-Curtis and Dorchester Fire Departments. Three Colby firefighters inside the theatre suppressing the fire became trapped following a partial roof collapse. Two firefighters were rescued and the third firefighter was recovered and subsequently died.
Due to the loss of life and injuries to the firefighters, the Abbotsford Fire Department requested assistance from the Wisconsin DOJ-DCI-State Fire Marshal’s Office and the ATF NRT. The investigators worked together as a team over the course of the investigation to determine the origin and cause of the fire. Damage estimates: approximately $300,000.
ATF’s NRT personnel from across the country responded to the scene to work alongside state and local investigators, including a canine team, certified fire investigators, forensic chemist, electrical and fire protection engineers, and additional specialists, the 5th that fiscal year and the 726th since the team was created. http://www.atf.gov.
(Information courtesy Special Agent Robert Schmidt, PIO-ATF –(651) 726-0316)
It currently houses a clinic. The address is 104 East Market Street, McLeansboro, Illinois 62859.
The Harnois Theatre, Missoula’s premier opera house, was designed for Charles Harnois by architect A.J. Gibson with the interior décor completed by the Twin City Scenic Studio. There were three floors with nine exits and a 58-foot wide, 35-foot deep and 65-foot high stage. Shortly after it opened, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Jack Jones of the IWW (the “Wobblies”) rented the Harnois' basement for rallies. Charles Harnois sold the Harnois Theatre in 1914, it was renamed the Missoula Theatre, and at some time between 1922 and 1925 the name was changed to the Liberty Theatre. By 1929, the Liberty was listed as a “Hanson-Simons Co.” property. By 1932, the Fox interests became involved with the Liberty and the Wilma and Rialto as well. At some point between 1938 and 1941, the Liberty Theatre closed, and by 1943, the building was listed as the Liberty Bowling Center in the city directory and to Liberty Lanes in the 1950s. When Liberty Lanes moved to another location in the 1960s, the building was razed for a parking lot. The remains of the brick eastern wall of the theatre are still visible on the east side of the parking lot at 211 E. Main.
April 29, 2010.
Illinois Institute of Technology photo.
I’ve posted a photo of an early theatre at 804 Main Street within the 1903 Schuchart Building in Ashton.
Anonymous comment, July 21, 2007: “I remember a very funny production a couple of years ago where each time a train would go by the entire cast would stop and yell “TRAIN”!! It is missed, even by newcomers like me.”
Linda Brassfield, July 21, 2007: “My memories of the TIME Theater are inextricably associated with my family. Built in 1946, my grandparents (Doug & Merle Ingalls) had assumed ownership by the time I was born (or shortly thereafter) so it was a huge part of my life. My grandparents moved into the tiny upstairs apartment and provided many a meal to me and my family, especially summertime lunches when my mother was working. There were also whole family events — like Christmas which we celebrated in the lobby. As kids, my brother, my cousins, and I enjoyed helping clean the theater after the show. It seemed such fun to pop the seats back up. We also threw crushed popcorn boxes and other debris into the cans that were pulled down the aisles and, when we were older, got to sweep the popcorn kernels out into the aisles where my grandfather scooped them up by running a snow shovel up the aisle. The popcorn was the best ever. It was popped in what we called ‘grease’ – actually lard, I think, which came in 5 gallon bright yellow cans. These cans along with bags of corn were kept on the landing up a small flight of stairs to the left (east) exit.
“I probably saw every movie ever shown there – at least through 1965 -and many of them more than once, though sometimes I’d just sit outside the east exit and listen with a friend. After my grandparents, my parents ran the theater along with my aunt and uncle and the family tradition continued until they sold it in the ‘70s. I was delighted when, after many years, the theater was reborn as the Hovde-Allen Theater, home to the Lake Pepin Players which provided the community with many fine live performances. I feel a great sadness at the loss of this community landmark and regret the manner in which we lost it, but I know that many, many people will continue to tell theater stories about it for a long, long time.”
Mary Seymour, August 1, 2007: “Grandma Thompson always bought me my favorite birthday present as a child – A WHOLE BUNCH OF TICKETS TO THE THEATER! During the Christmas season, when Santa came to give rides and candy, Santa also gave the wonderful popcorn from the theater. Better yet, the movie that was shown on that day for the children was not a movie at all. IT WAS ALL CARTOONS, AND I THINK IT WAS FREE. My favorite movies as a child were the scary movies like “The Fall of the House of Usher” or “The Body Snatchers”. For me, the scariest one was “The Sea Creature”. Just before the creature would come out of the water, you could hear the waves but not see the water. In those days, we lived on Front Street (k/n/a First Street), and I had to walk home alone. I would cut through Steve Breitung’s back yard, which had a lot of trees and no neighbors except us. I could hear the waves but could not see the water. I still think of that movie when I can hear the waves late at night.”
Kitty Latane: “I wrote an article about the theater which appeared in the ‘Notes from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society,’ and a more recent version in the “Courier-Wedge.” Several women have commented to me that their first dates with their husbands had been at the Time Theater.”