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Cinema Treasures should cross-list the Morris under the name “Palace Theatre”, which is the name by which many old-timers remember it. I know there are gazillions of other “Palace” theaters listed under that name, but that’s precisely why it is frustrating to dig through the whole pile without finding South Bend’s “Palace”.
Maybe I should apologize for using “Comments” to describe the Kent (as I remember it), as I did above, but three attempts to e-mail my recollections to this wondrous Website failed. Geezers like me (I’m 75) sometimes don’t cope with the technological marvels of the current century very well. So, I apologize, mildly. CinemaTreasures will surely be merciful to decrepit codgers who evade its protocols, as it strives to make access a little easier for us dinosaurs. In return, having memorialized my old childhood neighborhood “theatre” as well as I am able, I’ll try not to be equally annoying, again. Have a happy….
I attended the Kent as a kid during and after World War II (roughly,
1943-1955, from age 9 through high school), and occasionally on visits
thereafter (until 1970). At my current age (about 75), my memory isn't
The “Theatre” (the first place I encountered that used such an odd
spelling) was just a few dozen yards north of the Bronx/Yonkers border,
on the south side of McLean Avenue between north-south streets named
Martha Avenue (a Bronx name that leaked into Yonkers) and Kimball Avenue
(the Yonkers continuation of Van Cortlandt Parkway). Small storefront
shops flanked it on both sides.
The Theatre itself was a rectangle, oriented (roughly) from north (on
McLean) to south (the auditorium). Once you got past the chintzy ticket
booth and some glass double doors, you were in the plain lobby.
Directly in front of you was the candy counter. It sold popcorn and the
standard movie-theater candies, like Jujubes, real cheap. My limit, as
a kid, was 10 cents. On Wednesday evening, “giveaway” premiums, like
dishes, were hawked in the lobby. You’d have to ask my late Mom how
(Mom and Dad went to the flicks on weekday evenings, to see the sappy
romantic “A” features, when schoolkids had to go to bed early. Kids
went to the movies on weekend afternoons, to see the exciting
action-packed “B” features, cheap!)
On each side of the lobby were two adjacent open “doorways”. The
rearmost one, on each side, led to stairs, that led to the auditorium's
upper level. The foremost one, on each side, led through (pretty dark)
hallways to the back side of the auditorium’s lower level.
If you climbed the stairs, you arrived at the back of the auditorium's
upper level, at either side of the projectionist’s booth. A lateral
crosswalk afforded access to three aisles, one on either side and one
down the middle. The whole upper level, including the aisles and
seat-rows, was gently tilted toward the screen. I don’t recollect how
many seat-rows there were. I’d guess there were at least double the
number than those in the theater’s lower level. One delightful thing
about the upper level was the fact that — as long as I lived in New
York — one could smoke there!
If, on the other hand, you entered one of the hallway tunnels from the
lobby, you emerged at the back flanks of the auditorium’s lower
level. Again, a crosswise track afforded access to the lower level's
three aisles, one on either side and one down the middle. It also
afforded access to three short stairways — perhaps 6 or 8 steps? —
rising to the upper level’s aisles. The divider between the upper and
lower levels was a perpendicular wall. (Ushers used to become extremely
annoyed if folks — especially full-fare teenagers — in the upper
level’s front row put their feet on top of the wall!)
I don’t remember how many seat-rows there were on the lower level. I
suspect they numbered 8 or 10, no more. The best seats, for kids (who
were relegated to the cheap lower level during weekend matinees) were
the backmost rows. The rows in front were so close to the screen that
the images were too distorted to decipher!
There were a couple of “exit” double-doors on the east wall of the
lower-level seating area, that let out into an alleyway. I remember
them being used to evacuate large crowds once or twice when I was in
attendance, but I can’t recollect why. There was no emergency, as far
as I can remember. Curious!
At the front of the lower level, there was a very narrow crosswise
aisle, and then a raised “stage”, maybe 6 feet high and only a couple of
yards deep. During the War, there were occasional “stage shows”, which
always turned out to be “Bond Drives”, raising money for the war
effort. After the War, I never saw another “stage show” at the Kent.
During its heyday (as I remember it), the Kent made a thing about
opening a big curtain before showing its “A” feature. But then, it
went on to show another film and all kinds of extras — I can't
recollect when the curtain closed, but it must have! When I was a
kid, the screen was an old-style B&W rectangle, proportioned rather
like the screen on an ancient fishbowl Mac. When I occasionally
visited the neighborhood in the 1960s and very early ‘70s, the Kent
had acquired a “wide screen” (like my new 2008 iMac), and the curtain
was gone. I haven’t been back since.
The Kent’s interior decorations, insofar as there were any, were few and
far between. There were some “art deco” touches around the (dim) wall
lamps on either side of the auditorium. And I DO remember the annoying
illuminated clock mentioned by another correspondent on the Kent's
CinemaTreasures Webpage — the darn thing must have been there since
Time was invented! Otherwise, the Kent did not offer much of a
challenge to any of the major film palaces of the day. But, it was
“Woodlawn’s” movie; and we liked it.
My fuzzing brain tells me that I paid only 10â€º for a kid’s Saturday
matinee ticket in (about) 1945. Can that be right? [but then, at that
age, when I began exploring the NYC Subways all by myself, I could
travel all the way from Woodlawn to Coney Island for only a nickel. So,
maybe it’s possible.]
I hope this fills in a little about a totally forgettable, but still
fondly remembered, neighborhood movie house.
The “COMING SOON JESUS CHRIST” picture I mentioned in my previous note came from the terrific “Forgotten NY” website. According to its photographer, the photo was made in Summer 1999.
I’ve seen a relatively recent photo of the Ascot with its (flat) marquee sign still intact. The photo may come from either the great “Forgotten NY” website or the fine “Welcome to Bronx Pictures” website. Block black letters on the marquee read, in two lines: “COMING SOON JESUS CHRIST”. Has the Ascot ever been used as a Church, especially in recent years? That’s not quite the way I remember the old theater….
Thanks, Mr. Harris. You’re doubtless right. I was a teenage “action” movie freak. The Windsor was doubtless far too sophisticated for my tastes, so I just blanked all memories of it. I often caught the Number 4 bus to go home at its stop just around the corner, at Fordham and Bainbridge, so I must have seen the Windsor countless times, but….
It’s strange! In my mis-spent youth (I’m 75), I haunted almost all the movie houses in the Bronx/Yonkers Woodlawn-Wakefield neighborhod, from the Kimball to the Laconia, and also all the Fordham Road theaters, from the Paradise to the Grand to the Valentine [but not the Windsor or the Ascot, oddly]. But, for the life of me, I cannot recollect ever entering the Mosholu-Bainbridge — even though I remember seeing its marquee countless times from the old Number 4 Bus, which turned northward just a few paces away, and I remember walking under it while walking from Webster Avenue up to Bainbridge Avenue along 204th Street. I wonder why I skipped it.
I saw my very first movie at the Inwood, in 1939, when I was 5. My Grandpa Charlie was baby-sitting for the day, while my Grandma and Mom went shopping downtown. Gramp and I took a trolley across Fordham (from Valentine) and then the IRT down to Dyckman Street to see a Marx Brothers flick (I forget which one, sadly), all of which enchanted me. The ladies were not quite so enchanted, when they found out.
This is weird! I thought I remembered every movie theater near Fordham Road when I was a high-schooler at Fordham Prep (1947-1951), but I totally blank out on the Windsor. I can visualise the location just fine (the Kingsbridge curve west of Bainbridge, off Fordham). And I do remember the very fine Lido restaurant, mentioned by “lesthezuck”, where my Grandma loved to go. But, somehow, the Windsor remains a total blank — unlike the RKO Fordham, the Valentine, the Concourse, the Paradise, the Lido, Loew’s Grand, etc. It just goes to show that geezers (I’m 75) sometimes forget things…. Or, maybe, the Windsor seemed boring, to some kids.
I’m a geezer, age 75, now exiled to the Midwest, who remembers the RKO Fordham, the Valentine, and the Concourse theaters. I wasted much of my youth at them all. But, even after examining their photos and map sites in this terrific CinemaTreasures Website, I can’t recollect their relative locations, in respect to one another, along Fordham Road. I’m sure only that the Valentine Theatre was east of the Concourse Theatre, on the north side of Fordham Road between the Concourse and Valentine Avenue. Could anybody clarify a codger’s dim memories? [i also frittered away time in the Lido, the Paradise, and Loew’s Grand, but I remember where they were!]
The Wakefield was the biggest and best of the Bronx/Yonkers borderland neighborhood movie houses — including the Kent, the Kimball, the Craft, and the Laconia — that I explored during my high school years (1947-1951). The Wakefield often showed “first run” flicks a little before the others, and was not as gringy as some. The Saturday walk from my home in Woodlawn, across the 233rd Street Bridge and up the hill, is still remembered fondly.
I had completely forgotten about the Laconia, until this Website inspired this old geezer to reminisce about my movies of yore. When I was a kid, during and after World War II (until 1951 or so, when I went away to College), I explored all the theaters anywhere near “Wakefield” — the Kent (my “neighborhood” movie, over in Woodlawn), the Wakefield (the best of all!), the Craft (OK), the Kimball (up on Yonkers Avenue; also OK); and, when I felt like taking a long walk, the Laconia. The last usually wasn’t worth the walk. In my dotage, I can’t remember why I deemed it the pits; but, I did.
A ghost of the name survives. If one “Google Maps” the block on which the Craft once stood, and “strolls” northward a little way (to, roughly, 4450 White Plains Road), one discovers a little stand-apart shop called “Craft PRINTING”. The “Google Map” street-level photos here are dated 2008.
When I was a kid, during and right after World War II, there was a fascinating “war surplus” storefront just south of the Craft where kids could buy terrific militaria, like Marine Corps insignia and genuine Sergeant’s stripes. I suppose all the “war movies” we saw at the Craft helped business here.
The Valentine was where my sons and I saw the first run of “Tora Tora Tora”. My wife wasn’t interested.
While I was a student at Notre Dame (1951-1955), the State had fallen on hard times. Of the five operating movies then in “downtown” South Bend — the Avon, Colfax, Granada, Palace, and State — the State showed the poorest selection of second-run films, and the building’s condition was sad — damp, musty, dingy, and generally unkempt. As I recollect, the place did not get its share of business from ND, even though it was closer to the bus stop (from campus) than any of the other theaters.
Does anybody else remember riding the No. 7 trolley car down the Yonkers Avenue curve here, in order to go to the movies? Probably not The trolley car was red and yellow, but the movies were mostly B&W.
I began going to the Kent during World War II, when I was 8 or 9. It was the “neighbohood” movie house for “Woodlawn”, the local Bronx/Yonkers borderland. The usual fare included two features, a newsreel, a cartoon, a serial chapter, previews, and sometimes an extra short. At weekend matinees, unaccompanied kids sat in the lower-level front rows; grownups had the upper-level back rows to themselves. Free dishes were given away on Wednesday evenings. Interior decorations were plain, with art deco touches near the wall lights Not much changed by 1970, when I last visited. I was walking home from the Kent when I heard that FDR had died.