Queens Theatre

219-36 Jamaica Avenue,
Queens Village, NY 11428

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KenF
KenF on February 7, 2005 at 5:32 pm

It most likely was. Tall redheaded guy. In my day the gendarmie preferred the back of the balcony. We’d give them a swing of our Century flashlight if some sergeant came snooping.

Do I remember correctly that the right third of the house, by the mgr’s office, was the Young Adult section? Always wise to have NYPD blue on hand.

Where on 249 St? I lived on 85 Ave off 246 St. Spent a year at PS 133 before St Greg’s opened.

Are the 105 and PS 33 still across the street? I’ll bet the staff of most schools these days wish they had a hundred cops nearby'

gregwalsh
gregwalsh on February 7, 2005 at 5:52 am

Ken,

So it was YOUR dad who would occasionally sack out in the last row of the orchestra, outside the manager’s office (chuckle).

Seriously, the cop on the beat was always quite welcome; especially with the explosion of Rock-n-Roll and “Beach” movies in the mid-‘50’s. The teenagers would sometimes get out-of-hand; and then we’d put the cop to work (as only he’d know how…, heh, heh)!

BTW, although I lived in Bellerose (249th Street), I spent 5 ½ years at PS 33 – across the street from the 105th Precinct.

KenF
KenF on February 7, 2005 at 5:05 am

Dorothy, thanks for the tip about the QV website.

When you sent the photo to Cinema Treasures, what response did you get? For as long as I’ve been a member here, photo submissions have been closed. Did you have better luck?

BTW, my dad worked at the 105th Precinct, so some of the folks at the website may have known him as the cop-on-the-beat. (That’s how I got the job at the Queens, heh heh.)

Dorothy
Dorothy on February 5, 2005 at 5:18 am

Ken F.. I have forgotten a lot of names. I can picture so well the doorman with a black mustache… and the tickets sales lady.. who was a fixture there for years. They would not let us youngins do the ticket sales.. altho at one point they let me after I got “bonded”.
I already sent one photo to this site email that I found so far. A pic of my friend Lynn, a candy girl, behind the inside candy stand circa early 1970’s.
I have also since located a very old friend of mine Annie from my Queens Village days and she pointed me to this QV MSN group. Besides those who lived in QV many years ago it also contains photos of very early QV.

View link

I think you can view the pix without joining. I am going to point that group to this site. Surely there are others out there with some great photos!

Enjoy!
I will continue searching for more photos.

KenF
KenF on February 5, 2005 at 4:56 am

Dorothy… have you located your Queens snapshots? We’re waiting breathlessly. Was one of your doormen a fellow named Schaeffer or Wilkins? They’re the only two I can recall who were young enough to have spanned our two eras. Maybe.

KenF
KenF on December 23, 2004 at 8:36 am

I just found a photo of the Queens/Chaminade Austin at:

http://www.nytos.org/chaminade.htm

As you say, Robbie, rather plain-looking. But Jayne Meadows v. Ruth Buzzy? Egad. A nightmarish choice.

bzemanbz
bzemanbz on December 23, 2004 at 8:07 am

Chaminade lists the Queens Austin as 13 ranks, but the Austin opus list says 42, so maybe they only found part of it. The rest of Chaminade’s instrument was rummaged up from the RKO Richmond. As far as glitz and glitter, the Valencia’s Morton could run circles around the Queens' Austin. The Valencia’s console flew out of the pit as a cream and gold, gessoed, silver and gold leafed four manual confection complete with an elaborately decorated fence around the top. One could easily hide a volkswagen in it. The Austin, on the other hand, looked more like a walnut, roll-top desk that housed a typewriter. Sort of Jayne Meadows vs Ruth Buzzy,

gregwalsh
gregwalsh on December 23, 2004 at 6:24 am

Ken, according to a good friend (the organist in my own parish, who first told me of this website), the organ went to Chaminade High School in Mineola.

Robbie, my organist-friend also confirms what you said about the “churchy” tone of the Austins.

Dorothy, I’m glad I didn’t ask… (“Dorothy, those are NOT mouse droppings; that’s the new peppercorn-flavored popcorn!”)

Dorothy
Dorothy on December 23, 2004 at 5:43 am

Greg W – don’t ask!

We had to inventory – count EVERYTHING..even the cups for soda.. and to my recollection the candy stayed in place and was locked by sliding doors.. I’ll have to locate my Queens Theater pix.. I have one of my ex (the usher) as well in his usher uniform plus my friend Lynn the candy girl behind the counter
A few times I even got to sell tickets in the front booth… had to be “bonded” for the job as well. and there was an older gentlemen who was the ticket taker whose name escapes me.

And as to the phantom,,, I heard him

KenF
KenF on December 22, 2004 at 3:25 pm

Holy bass pedal, Batman! Are you telling me the Queens had a bigger organ than the fancy-schmancy Valencia? Take that, Loewe’s! Go Century! Is it still there?

bzemanbz
bzemanbz on December 22, 2004 at 1:05 pm

I would suppose that the organ was probably abandoned in the 40’s. It was a large instrument built by Austin Organs in Hartford, CT (still going strong I might add), opus 1569 (1927/8), 3 manuals (keyboards) and 42 ranks (sets of pipes). That made it somewhat larger than the Valencia’s Robert Morton a few miles west. Austins were more refined than Wurlitzers or Mortons and not as unified, so they had a more “churchy” sound. Possibly this led to its demise. Anyway, the Beacon in Port Washington, the Freeport, Prospect (Flushing), and the Huntington all had identical Austin instruments. The Beacon’s was in a restored condition and in use up until the time that the theater was sliced up into shoeboxes. One more bit of trivia: both the New York Rialto and Strand had 56 rank Austins. RCMH’s Wurlitzer (biggest of ‘em all) boasts 58! The Austins were busy beavers populating many of New York’s theaters with organs although we hear mostly of Wurlitzers and Mortons as the quintessential choice. Oh, one more bit before I stop. The Freeport Theater’s Austin wound up in St. Aloysius RC Church in Great Neck and did admirable churchy service there for many years before wheezing its last breath.

KenF
KenF on December 22, 2004 at 12:07 pm

In my era, the candy stayed put in the stand, which had folding panels that closed and locked.

Prowling around in our off-hours, we found relics of the vaudeville and silent movie era. Under the covered orchestra pit was a dusty neglected organ. Behind the faux-tapestry to the right of the screen were the pipes and the forced-air percussion apparatus. Backstage there were rooms full of what seemed to be bits of costumes, carpets, and settings. All that was missing was a phantom.

gregwalsh
gregwalsh on December 22, 2004 at 5:41 am

Ken – Yes, the music normally came from the booth. But there was an override switch on the manager’s office wall at eye level above the turntable. That turntable was the one I used. My LPs were played only while I was in the theater. I wouldn’t allow anyone, even Sy, to touch them.

BTW, the PA system (over which intermission music played) utilized a different (smaller) set of speakers from those used for the film sound tracks. Every once in awhile, the projectionist would forget to turn off the PA music as the film began. Thus, the override switch was our means of shutting off the music.

Dorothy – You’ve raised an interesting issue – I remember occasional mice in the theater (inevitable due to food scraps and chewing gum left by patrons). Unsold candy, of course, was removed from the stand during the nightly inventory, and locked in rodent-proof cabinets.

Ken or Dorothy, what was done with the bags of pre-popped corn, when penetrated by mice? Or shouldn’t I ask (gag, barf)??

Dorothy
Dorothy on December 22, 2004 at 1:42 am

I worked as a candy girl there 1970ish. Married the usher. (we divorced and he’s now deceased) Manager was Mr. Mendelsohn always smoked a huge cigar and very strict. Ushers had black jackets and white shirts and flashlights and showed patrons to their seats. WE…ummmm.. snuck into the ushers room a few times. Our dates also brought us to the balcony where we “made out”. (giggle) Huge long fire escape stairs. Popcorn came already popped in huge bags and huge plastic containers of all-ready melted imitation butter were used. The mice constantly ate into the bags of popcorn. Somewhere I have a pic of a friend behind that candy stand.
Stores nearby included Bohack supermarket, Woolworths (flat open cases -salesperson stood in the middle), and a place where you could get an egg cream soda.

KenF
KenF on December 21, 2004 at 9:12 pm

By 1963 the dickies were gone — we wore our own white shirts — and so was fresh popcorn. The back half of the ushers' room was gated and locked, with a dozen or so bags of popped popcorn stored. The stuff was poured right into the top of the machine.

There was a turntable in the manager’s office, but I think the music was usually controlled from the booth. Our regular afternoon operator was a big Floyd Cramer fan. If I never hear ‘Wildwood Flower’ again I’ll die a happy man.

gregwalsh
gregwalsh on December 21, 2004 at 6:55 pm

I remember the ushers' room very well. But sharing it with bags of popcorn?? That’s disgusting!

In my five years with Century, all popcorn was REALLY fresh-popped. And for a small premium (I don’t recall how much) the container of popcorn was then sprayed with freshly melted butter and sprinkled with extra salt.

Part of my job as Chief of Service was to fill in as others took scheduled breaks. This included the Children’s Matron, the Doorman, and the Refreshment Stand Matron. Consequently, I occasionally made, and served, the popcorn. To this day, whenever I smell freshly popped popcorn, my thoughts drift back almost 50 years…

That “clunky metal door” and the asbestos fire curtain suspended above the stage (immediately in front of the main curtain) were, of course, part of the fire containment system dating back to the Vaudeville days (late-20’s). That ebony switchboard, with its myriad of switches and huge dimmers, was a beauty. I often tinkered with the dimmers during intermissions to subtly vary the colored lights playing on the main curtain.

Speaking of intermissions, I tired rather quickly of the typical “elevator music” played. As I had (still have) a rather large collection of “sound track” and “musicals” (e.g., Picnic, Guys & Dolls, Giant, etc.), I prevailed on Sy Samuels to allow me to bring in, and play, some of those LPs; particularly when the music neatly fit with a current or future billing. Other times I played classical music, especially Baroque, and got a lot of good comments from some of our patrons.

I too was a smoker; but I don’t ever remember doing it “on the sneak.” I DO recall, however, that smoking in full uniform (i.e., with jacket on) was strictly forbidden. As I hated those white dickies, I normally wore my own white shirt, and simply took my jacket off when on break.

Ahh, the memories…

KenF
KenF on December 21, 2004 at 5:08 pm

Ah yes, the rope hoist. Part of our Tuesday night close routine was helping the operator lug the cans down to the lobby, where the movie fairy would swap them overnight for the next double feature. Meanwhile the electrician was up on a 15' ladder changing the marquee. We also changed the printed schedules in the little wall slots.

The “ushers” room was on the mezzanine under the left balcony staircase. We shared it with huge bags of “fresh-popped” popcorn. On the many afternoons when the balcony was empty, you could scrunch down in the far left corner of the loge and see the manager’s office — and sneak a smoke.

Backstage was fascinating — the clunky metal door, and the huge dimmers that you needed both hands and feet to operate.

Ah, yes.

gregwalsh
gregwalsh on December 21, 2004 at 4:13 pm

Ken – Yes indeed, I remember that vertical ladder to the projection booth.

On rare occasions I had to schlep those heavy lead cannisters of 35mm film – a holdover from the nitrate film days – to the top of the balcony. I’d then climb the ladder and summon the projectionist to get them up into the booth.

I have a vague recollection of a rope hoist for the cannisters… Do you recall?

KenF
KenF on December 21, 2004 at 3:40 pm

Warren, that’s a great story about the fight in the projection booth. As I recall, the only access to the booth was via a vertical ladder up the wall after climbing stairs to the top landing of the balcony. No wonder those guys got testy.

Greg, those were great days indeed — and I learned more about movies from watching them 20 times than from any textbook. Our Asst. Manager part of the time I was there was Tom Bien, a Hungarian stage actor who had fled Hungary after the failed revolution of ‘56. I ran into him a few years later, managing the movie house that used to be next door to Maxwell’s Plum in Manhattan (anyone recall its name?).

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 1, 2004 at 11:12 am

The theatre is currently known as the NY Deliverance Gospel Church and has a market value of $1.29 million, according to NYC records. As a church, it is exempt from property taxes.

gregwalsh
gregwalsh on November 1, 2004 at 10:56 am

Having started as an usher in Century’s Floral Theater (Floral Park) in 1953, I transferred to the Queens as “Chief of Service (Head Usher)” in 1955; working there for three years under Manager Sy Samuels and his assistant, Art Ringfield. Ken, at $1.15 you were lucky! I made $0.85 an hour in 1955, rising to $1.00 when I left in 1958. Bess, your brother’s friend was pretty lucky. Any usher foolish enough to open an emergency exit to let someone in free was summarily fired. Particularly dumb was to do it during the day. Opening ANY of those doors would instantly flood the entire theater with light. Nevertheless, they were great days… if you didn’t mind seeing the same movie for 20 to 25 times!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 18, 2004 at 8:35 am

On September 13, 1938, a fight broke out in the Queens Theatre’s projection booth between the two operators, Nathan Klein and Solomon Schulman. Schulman later claimed that Klein attacked him with a fire extinguisher and that he grabbed a reel of 35mm. film to defend himself. In the tussle, Klein got killed. Schulman was eventually tried and convicted for manslaughter in the second degree, and sent to prison for 15 years, according to newspaper reports at the time.

Bess
Bess on July 17, 2004 at 8:24 am

I have wonderful childhood memories of Saturday afternoon admissions (50 cents for a double feature with newsreel) at the Queens Theatre just several blocks down from my dad’s drugstore on Springfield Blvd. This was in the late 40’s, early 50’s and we looked forward to this every Saturday; one such memory was of my brother getting in free because his friend was an usher and let him in through the second floor fire escape door. (I think he only did that a couple of times just for the ‘fun of it’– as for me, I was too frightened of being caught and that walk up the fire escape looked very precarious!)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on June 19, 2004 at 1:49 pm

The address for the Queens Theatre is 219-36 Jamaica Avenue, Queens Village, New York. It is NOT, as the introduction says, situated in Springfield Gardens. It was given the name of Queens because of its location in the heart of Queens Village.

KenF
KenF on June 19, 2004 at 12:28 pm

I ushered at the Queens from 1963-65, in maroon double-breasted jacket and pants, for $1.15 an hour. It was a blast. On the rare weekend nights we weren’t working, we took our dates there (for free). When I started, the double bill was KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and FREE, WHITE AND 21. This last item was quickly replaced by, I think, THE KING AND I. My swan song as an usher was the first-run Showcase booking of IN HARM’S WAY.