Comments from AlanHemenway

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AlanHemenway
AlanHemenway commented about Allen's Theatre on Sep 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Gerald,

Yes, it was the Strand/Jane Pickens. I visited it last year when I went back east. (I chanced to meet the current owner.)

I would like to find the book by Arthur John Gartaganis “The History of Movie Houses in the Greater New Bedford Area of Massachusetts During the 20th Century”. It was self published by the author; 143 pages. (He is 86 years old this year.) So far, I can’t find him nor a copy of the book to purchase. There is a copy in the Millicent Library in Fairhaven.

AlanHemenway
AlanHemenway commented about Rialto Theatre on Jun 2, 2011 at 3:36 pm

When I was 11-12 years old in 1955 I used to take the bus from Sconticut Neck to go stay with my friend on Weld Street. We would go to the Rialto every Friday night; sometimes on Saturday to the Capital. The Rialto always had a chapter serial that was continued next week. This place was small. Kids were in the balcony with about 8 rows with no more than twenty seats across. The balcony was almost 1/3 the capacity of the whole theater. I’d say that there were only about 550 seats. My father was a projectionist but didn’t work this little theater because it was non-Union.

The photo above is Purchase Street at Weld, by the old Car Barn, which converted into senior housing. The highway covers the location today. The police station was where Weld St, Acushnet Av, and Ashly Blvd met, and the Rialto was next door, and could easily be mistaken for being on Acushnet Avenue.

AlanHemenway
AlanHemenway commented about Allen's Theatre on Jun 2, 2011 at 3:14 pm

My father, Gilbert Hemenway, was a projectionist at many of the New Bedford area theaters, starting at the Allen Theater where he and his brother George were trained by their brother Floyd to be projectionists. In those days you had to study electronics and get a license to be a projectionist. Union contracts specified a 2-man booth, as the projection rooms were called. My father started as a ticket-taker and usher and thats how my mother met him. The popular photo of the Allen Theater, with the bicycle in front has one of the persons to be an uncle of mine, Richard or Joseph Casey, who died at age 21. I was born in 1943. I grew up in the booth. I only remember the theaters my worked from 1948ish to 1956, then we went to Los Angeles for other work because TV was killing my fathers profession.

In Fall River it was the Plaza and the Embassy – and there was the Strand (now the Jane Pickens)in Newport. In New Bedford they were the Capitol, Empire, New Bedford, Orpheum, Dartmouth Drive-In, and Fairhaven Drive-In. In about 1948 when I was about 5 year old, my mother and I would go to the Dartmouth Drive-In in our Chevy Coupe and I would sleep on the shelf in the back. Before I was born my father worked other theaters including the Keith in North Fairhaven and I think the Baily square.

AlanHemenway
AlanHemenway commented about Jane Pickens Theatre on Jun 1, 2011 at 8:49 pm

My father, Gilbert Hemenway, was a projectionist from 1936-1956, mostly in New Bedford but also Fall River, Dartmouth Drive-In and Fairhaven Drive-Ins, and briefly in Newport. I believe he was here at what used to be the Strand. I went with him once in about 1955. From the descriptions, I don’t think it was the Paramount, even though my father worked for at least 3 of the 4 Zeits theaters in New Bedford. It certainly wasn’t the Opera House. I don’t remember the park across the street. Perhaps the trees were smaller. I had thought there was another theater across the street from the Strand but I must have been wrong. I thought it was a busier street with sailors round about. There are stores that must have been lit up. The setting for the Paramount doesn’t seem to fit my impression – with the church across the street.

If you would like to have a few laughs, read my entry under the Plaza Theater in Fall River. My father was mischievous. One night he made the rooster on the Pathe Newsreel crow nine times. Read about his other pranks. He was also The Ghost of the New Bedford Theater — check that one out.

We moved to Los Angeles in 1956 for my father to find work. The more that TV got established, the more theaters were closing and projectionists out of work. I’ll be back there in a few weeks to take a look at this theater — the only one left open, and is of two left standing, that my father worked.

AlanHemenway
AlanHemenway commented about New Bedford Theatre on May 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm

My father, Gilbert Hemenway, was a projectionist in New Bedford from the 1930s until 1956. He worked at the New Bedford Theater. In the 50s it was only open during Summer vacation. What I remember is that there was a candy machine in the lobby and no snack bar. You had to tell the door man that you were going to the little store on the east side of the entrance.

My father’s older brother Floyd trained him and another brother George at the Allen’s Theater, located on east side of Acushnet Avenue between Coffin Avenue and Phillips Avenue, in the 1930s. My mother met him there when he was an usher and ticket taker. His early years were at the Bailey Square and the Keith (Fairhaven). He worked the Capital, Empire, New Bedford, Orpheum, Dartmouth Drive-In, Fairhaven Drive-In, and in Fall River he worked the Plaza and the Embassy, and in Newport the Newport Theater. When the South Pacific tour came to the New Bedford Theater, he ran the spot light. I remember one occasion when my father and Uncle George were working side-by-side at the New Bedford Theatre. They had licensed, 2-man Union booths at that time.

Let me tell you the story of The Ghost of the New Bedford Theatre. One day my father decided to investigate what might be up in the attic through the access in the ceiling above the last row of chairs in the second balcony, and when he hoisted himself up, a block of wood fell. The second balcony was supposed to be closed. An usher came up to investigate with a flashlight. My father let out a scary moan in the dark shadows and the usher took off running. He was back in the booth when the usher came up with the manager and asked my father if he heard anything. My father just played dumb.

I posted some hilarious stories of what my father did while at the Plaza in Fall River. http://cinematreasures.org/theater/12048/

I grew up in these theaters, especially through my father. With their disappearance, a piece of me is missing.

AlanHemenway
AlanHemenway commented about Orpheum Theatre on May 31, 2011 at 8:34 pm

My father, Gilbert Hemenway, was a projectionist in New Bedford from the 1930s until 1956. He worked very briefly at the Orpheum in its last days. At that time it was not open full time… just like the New Bedford Theater which was only open during Summer vacation. I only went there once and my father let my mother, sister, and I into the club area, and we played pool.

His older brother Floyd trained him and another brother George at the Allen Theater, located on east side of Acushnet Avenue between Coffin Ave and Phillips Ave. My mother met him there when he was an usher and ticket taker. Just about the whole block burned down in 1940. His early years were at the Bailey Square and the Keith (Fairhaven). My memories are of him working the Capital, Empire, New Bedford, Dartmouth Drive-In, Fairhaven Drive-In, and in Fall River he worked the Plaza and the Embassy. He also worked the Newport Theater (RI) briefly. When the South Pacific tour came to the New Bedford Theater, he ran the spot light.

I posted some hilarious stories of what my father did while at the Plaza. http://cinematreasures.org/theater/12048/

In 1956 we moved to Los Angeles. In 1990, I visited the booth at the Fairhaven Drive-In and everything was still in place. I took the last carbons out of the Peerless carbon arc projector, the final movie run sheet, and the reel of film that they show at Intermission. I also took the ramp speaker that my father strung up along the ceiling to the amplifier when the place first opened. I still have and cherish them. With virtually all of these theaters gone, a piece of me is missing.

AlanHemenway
AlanHemenway commented about Bijou Theatre on May 31, 2011 at 4:48 pm

My father, Gilbert Hemenway, was a projectionist and he worked at the Keith and at many of the New Bedford area theaters, starting at the Allen Theater where he and his brother George were trained by their brother Floyd to be projectionists. In those days you had to study electronics and get a license to be a projectionist. Union contracts specified a 2-man booth, as the projection rooms were called. My father started as a ticket-taker and usher and thats how he met my mother.

In New Bedford he worked at the Empire, Capitol, New Bedford, Orpheum, Dartmouth Drive-In, and Fairhaven Drive-In. In Fall River it was the Plaza and the Embassy – and there was the Newport Theater in RI. In about 1948 when I was about 5 year old, my mother and I would go with my father to the Dartmouth Drive-In in our Chevy Coupe and I would sleep on the shelf in the back. I miss all those theaters. Before I was born my father worked other theaters. I think they were the Bailey Square (Arcade) in New Bedford and the Keith in North Fairhaven.

With television causing theaters to go dark, my father was squeezed out of the theaters in New Bedford and found some work with the Fall River Local. When the Fairhaven Drive-In opened, there wasnt a speaker in the projection booth so that the projectionist could hear the sound track. My father took a ramp speaker and ran a wire up along the ceiling and to the big amplifier. In 1990 I went to that booth 35+ years later and noticed his speaker. I now have it, as a momento of my father. I was amazed at the equipment that was still not vandalized. The same with the Dartmouth Drive-In and the Westport Drive-In. I took the reel of film that they played to announce intermission time and the last carbon arcs out of the projectors due to my sentimentality.

AlanHemenway
AlanHemenway commented about Empire Theatre on May 31, 2011 at 4:32 pm

My father, Gilbert Hemenway, was a projectionist at many of the New Bedford area theaters, starting at the Allen Theater where he and his brother George were trained by their brother Floyd to be projectionists. In those days you had to study electronics and get a license to be a projectionist. Union contracts specified a 2-man booth, as the projection rooms were called. My father started as a ticket-taker and usher and thats how he met my mother.

In New Bedford he worked at the Empire, Capitol, New Bedford, Orpheum, Dartmouth Drive-In, and Fairhaven Drive-In. In Fall River it was the Plaza and the Embassy – and there was the Newport Theater which I cant find in the RI listings. In about 1948 when I was about 5 year old, my mother and I would go with my father to the Dartmouth Drive-In in our Chevy Coupe and I would sleep on the shelf in the back. Before I was born my father worked other theaters. One was the Keith in North Fairhaven. I miss all those theaters. With my father, I grew up in all those theaters.

AlanHemenway
AlanHemenway commented about Capitol Theatre on May 31, 2011 at 3:35 pm

My father, Gilbert Hemenway, was a projectionist at many of the New Bedford area theaters, starting at the Allen Theater where he and his brother George were trained by their brother Floyd to be projectionists. In those days you had to study electronics and get a license to be a projectionist. Union contracts specified a 2-man booth, as the projection rooms were called. My father started as a ticket-taker and usher and thats how my mother met him. In New Bedford they were the Capitol, Empire, New Bedford, Orpheum, Dartmouth Drive-In, and Fairhaven Drive-In. In Fall River it was the Plaza and the Embassy – and there was the Newport Theater which I cant find in the RI listings; it was across the street from another theater in Newport. In about 1948 when I was about 5 year old, my mother and I would go to the Dartmouth Drive-In in our Chevy Coupe and I would sleep on the shelf in the back. Before I was born my father worked other theaters. I think one was the Keith in North Fairhaven.

At the Capital Theatre, I remember Butch taking tickets. I didn’t have to give him a ticket because my father was a projectionist there. Butch always called me Donald. When I called him on it he said that I looked like a Donald. I lived at 254 Coffin Avenue, near the bakery. On the Saturday matinee they made all the kids sit up front and I hated that because of all the noise the kids made. Smoking was in the mens room – you could hardly breath in there because of the smoke. Next door was the Capital Candy Shop and there was a side door from the theater by which you could enter. They had a sundae for 20 cents with peach melba in grenadine syrup and hot marshmallow on top. It was called a Buffalo Tip.

With the advent of television and theaters going dark, toward the end, and found some work with the Fall River Local. When the Fairhaven Drive-In opened, there wasnt a speaker in the projection booth so that the projectionist could hear. My father took a ramp speaker and ran a wire up along the ceiling to the amplifier. In 1990 I went there and noticed his speaker. I now have it, as a momento of my father. I was amazed at the equipment that was still not vandalized. The same with the Dartmouth Drive-In and the Westport Drive-In. I took the reel of film that they used to announce intermission time.

AlanHemenway
AlanHemenway commented about Embassy Theatre on May 31, 2011 at 2:57 pm

My father, Gilbert Hemenway, was a projectionist at many of the New Bedford area theaters. In Fall River he worked at the Plaza Theater for some years, and The Embassy Theater was a fairly brief stint for him. I remember seeing Born Yesterday there. I was impressed by the size of the booth. It counted six rooms. As a small kid, I probably considered a large closet to be a room. My father came home early one night because the cops raided the theater for showing East of Eden. The Fall River Archdiocese was said to be behind the police raids.

Read the Plaza Theatre entry and find out how my father was a joker.

Gerry, I can not find the Newport Theater (Rhode Island)listed here. It was on the west side of the street and there was another theater across the street. If anybody has any information, let me know.

AlanHemenway
AlanHemenway commented about Cinema I on Mar 17, 2008 at 1:48 pm

My father, Gilbert Hemenway, was a projectionist at many of the New Bedford area theaters, starting at the Allen Theater where he and his brother George were trained by their brother Floyd to be projectionists. In those days you had to study electronics and get a license to be a projectionist. Union contracts specified a 2-man “booth”, as the projection rooms were called. My father started as a ticket-taker and usher and that’s how my mother met him. The popular photo of the Allen Theater, with the bicycle front and center has one of the persons to be an uncle of mine, Richard or Joseph Casey, who died at age 21. I was born in 1943. I grew up in the “booth”. I only remember the theaters my worked from 1948ish to 1956, then we went to Los Angeles for other work because TV was killing my father’s profession.

In Fall River it was the Plaza and the Embassy… and there was the Newport Theater which I can’t find in the RI listings; it was across the street from another theater in Newport. In New Bedford they were the Capitol, Empire, New Bedford, Orpheum, Dartmouth Drive-In, and Fairhaven Drive-In. My father worked other theaters before I was born. I think one was the Keith’s in North Fairhaven.

With the advent of television and theaters going dark, toward the end my father was squeezed out of the theaters of the Union jurisdiction of New Bedford and found some work with the Fall River Local. They crossed boundries, such as the Fairhaven Drive-In being a part of Fall River Theaters. Incidentally, when the Fairhaven Drive-In opened, there wasn’t a speaker in the projection booth so that the projectionist could hear the sound. My father took a ramp speaker and ran a wire up along the ceiling to the big amplifier. In 1990 I went to that booth 35+ years later and noticed his speaker. I now have it, as a momento of my father. I was amazed at the equipment that was still not vandalized. The same with the Dartmouth Drive-In and the Westport Drive-In. I took the reel of film that they play to announce intermission time.

I have stories to tell about most of these theaters. I will do such under each of their listings at this web site.

Now, the Plaza Theater in Fall River is going to be a lot of fun! When I was born, my father and Paul Joinville worked the booth. Paul became my godfather but I vaguely remember him. I remember my father working with a guy named Sturtevant, who was a member of a nudist colony. The booth was a walk-up through the open balcony. I couldn’t reach the buzzer high up on the door frame to get into the booth. Behind the door was another flight up and I was nerveous about knocking on the door loud enough and disturbing the folks who were watching the movie. In the booth was a steel ladder and a hatch to access the roof. I remember the view across the water into Rhode Island. I imagine that is where Battleship Cove is today, along with the merry-go-round from Lincoln Park.

I can’t remember if it was here or the Empire Theater in New Bedford where my father noticed that some guy there was frequently sleeping in the balcony. My father gave him a hotfoot. It resulted in the intended effect.

Remember the Pathe News that had the rooster crow with the fanfare at the end? For several weeks the newsreel was coming in with the rooster crowing twice. My father cut extra one off and saved them. One day he decided to splice them all together and the rooster crowed nine times!!! The audience went nuts!!! When the manager asked my father about it he said, “I don’t know. It just came in like that.”

During the holidays my father ran a very short film for season’s greetings and for New Years. They were black and white but one had a red tint and the other had a green tint. The one for New Years had actor playing the parts of the manager, box office girl, ticket taker, usher, and the projectionist. They were saying things like… I’ll be here to sell you your ticket… I’ll be here to take your ticket… etc. The projectionist opens a little sliding portal and sticks his face out and says, “I’m the projectionist and I’m just loaded with good films to show you in the coming year.” My father edited the film to say, “I’m the projectionist and I’m just loaded”. Again, the audience went wild. Management couldn’t figure out what was so funny.

My father took pride in not making mistakes in the booth… only deliberate ones.

The Embassy Theater in Fall River was a fairly brief stint for my father. I remember seeing “Born Yesterday” there. I was impressed by the size of the booth. It counted six rooms. As a small kid, I probably considered a large closet to be a room. My father came home early one night because the cops raided the theater for showing “East of Eden”. The Fall River Archdiocese was said to be behind the police raids.

There are photos of these theaters at Spinner Publications which I will submit when we are given the opportunity.