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OK, sorry, but you used to have a very quick, alphabetical way of finding theaters by name. I could go to “C” and find all the Colonial Theaters, past and present, in America. Now, my old Colonial is not even listed, not even among the closed theaters. (It was converted to a church years ago.) And if I want to find a theater alphabetically, how am I supposed to wade through thousands of numbered pages, and know exactly where a theater starting with “L” falls? An alphabetical list would be much simpler. This redesign, like so many, seems aimed more at pleasing web designers than at user satisfaction.
Gee, what happened to all the thousands of great comments posted for many years on this site? They were a great source of information, entertainment and nostalgia for the many posters. Is that all gone now? The last time I posted something, about my neighborhood theater growing up in Brooklyn, NY, I made a point of saving the entire page, with all of the comments made by me and others over the years. I’m sure glad I did. Sorry, but if it ain’t broke, don’t break it.
Sorry, Jseven, forgot to add, you can probably contact the city’s Buildings Department for info on the factory.
Jseven, I lived just three blocks from there on Bushwick Avenue, a long, long time ago, and though I had a friend who lived on that block, I only vaguely remember the factory. I have old family photos from back then, some of the elevated train tracks, which still look much the same. The building at 133 Broadway was the HQ of the Williamsburgh (note the H) Savings Bank for as long as I can remember, now an HSBC branch. Don’t remember there ever being any theater there. We’re not supposed to get too far afield from theater info on this board, but if you look at earlier posts you’ll find other boards listed such as Bushwick Buddies, where people post info about the neighborhood. 133 Broadway is adjacent to the Williamsburg Bridge. The climactic scene of “The Naked City” (1948), directed by Jules Dassin, was filmed on the bridge, and the building can be glimpsed.
Airdome? What the heck is an airdome? Did they mean airdrome, which I can’t imagine they did; there couldn’t have been a landing field there, could there? Or maybe it was kind of an outdoor theater? I wonder …
Hello, sorry I’m coming to this party a little late. Been hanging out over at the Colonial Theater farther down Broadway. Peter K. knows me from over there. I was an old habitue of the Bushwick when I was a kid, saw “Phantom of the Opera” with Herbert Lom, on a double bill with “Night Creatures” with Peter Cushing, both scared the hell out of me. I also remember the lobby display for “Day of the Triffids,” a box about 9 feet tall with a rhythmic pounding inside, supposedly a Triffid trying to get out. Anyway, I noticed the discussion about churches converted to nightclubs/discos. Here’s another one: The Sanctuary, a deconsecrated Lutheran church on West 43rd Street and Ninth Avenue in Manhattan. I partied there many times in my wanton youth, and a wanton place it was, way, way wicked long before anyone dreamed of Studio 54. Had a mural up where the choir loft would be, of the devil with his arm around a naked nymph, his hand on her breast. The pews were moved to the sides of the church to make room for the dance floor. The DJ booth was up where the altar would be. A couple of brief scenes in the movie “Klute” were filmed there. Today I think it’s an off-Bway theater.
I wouldn’t bet a lot on it, but I think the Colonial probably did have cartoons. I can very vaguely remember seeing some. I remember distinctly that around Halloween they would have a costume contest where the neighborhood kids would dress up and try to win prizes, consisting probably of extra candy or something. My mother would take me to Pitkin Avenue, not far away, to buy a costume at a 5 and 10 or other department store. That’s also where Fortunoff’s got its humble start, later becoming a more upscale department store, though it has had bankruptcy problems in recent years. In 1959, I believe, a kid in my class at Lourdes and I both had the same Superman costume and they had us stand up on the seats together. We both won. The movie was “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,” with Kerwin Matthews, who just died last year at 81. The movie scared the hell out of me, especially the woman who was put in the basket of the sorcerer, Torin Thatcher, with snakes and turned into a half-snake, half-woman. But that didn’t stop me from seeing the movie about 15 times. I still love to watch it occasionally, along with “Jason and the Argonauts,” both from Ray Harryhausen. … “From the land beyond beyond … from the world past hope and fear … I bid you, Genie, now appear!”
No problem, Peter. There is no link to that article unless you want to buy it from the Times. I had to go to the library and look it up. Very analog and retro.
Peter K., I knew Bro. Cyprian pretty well, he was a friend of my family’s, and I don’t remember hearing anything from him along those lines. Anyway, I found an article in the NY Times about the burning down of Lourdes. According to the pastor, Father Edward Smith, whom I also knew well, the fire was suspicious because of recent break-ins in which burned paper plates were found, which the burglars used to see in the dark. This happened 11/16/75.
I remember Bro. Campion, though I didn’t really know him, from when I was a student at the Prep between ‘66 and '70. I think he was a baseball coach. Peter K., you would have been a freshman when I was a senior, so I wouldn’t have known you, or wanted to. (Just kidding – you know how upperclassmen treated the frosh.) But I might have seen you around the neighborhood. Did you know Bro. Cyprian? He was the principal of Lourdes till 66 or 67, then came to the prep. Bro. Peter was my 7th and 8th grade teacher. Some of the Franciscan brothers were real sadists and would beat the hell out of us, which many of us deserved, but he was a great guy who I really admired. We once had an after-school outing from the Prep to see “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” at the Meserole Theater in Greenpoint. It was a stark, black and white film by the Italian director Pasolini, hardly who you’d think would make a Biblical story, but it was pretty good, portraying Christ not as merciful, but as pissed-off and vengeful. The Meserole, now closed, was near McCarren Park Pool, which has been used for concerts in recent years and is going to be renovated and reopened as a pool. The Prep’s football team used to practice in the park. In probably early 68, I was there playing ball and there was a bandwagon and a big commotion. I went over to see what was going on and it was Bobby Kennedy, running for president. I got to shake his hand. BTW, SFP is having a 150th anny celebration in downtown Bklyn in Oct., black tie optional, $250/per, too rich for my blood.
OK, Lisa, meant to say this earlier, but Isabel had a brother named Manny. If you ask her, mention him.
Lisa, Isabel had dark hair and did go to Lourdes around my time, but I don’t remember her last name or know whatever happened to her. We used to play house. I think she was at least half-Italian. She used to call herself “Rosaba,” pronounced “ro-ZAH-ba.” You could go in and ask for Rosaba and see if she responds. By the way, she was hot.
c'mon, kids, let’s play nice. Warren, I backdoored into your photo album from the Colonial pix. Did you take all those? You’ve got some great stuff there.
me too. there’s room for everybody and their info and opinion. many of the other boards for other theaters have similar postings with info about the neighborhoods, not just the theaters.
To all my friends from Bushwick and the hood,
This note is long overdue, and unfortunately Iâ€™m short of time to do it, as Iâ€™m getting ready to go out of the country for two weeks. But I just wanted to let you all know that I recently paid a visit, my first in many years, to Bushwick and the surrounding area, inspired by Lisaâ€™s visit, mentioned above. I passed through en route to my motherâ€™s in Canarsie and decided to stop by.
The Wayside Baptist Church, the former Colonial Theater, is alive and well. I arrived as a Sunday afternoon service was letting out. The outside is just a brick faÃ§ade, nondescript and a little fortress-like, but inside itâ€™s a vibrant church, very colorful and bright, with lots of well-dressed and upbeat people. A few of them were kind of suspicious of me, especially since some nut out in the Midwest or somewhere had just killed some people in a church earlier that week, but most were friendly. Like so many other things from oneâ€™s youth, it didnâ€™t seem nearly as big now as it did when I was a little kid. Still I stood and marveled at the huge, colorful stained-glass window that stood where the screen used to be, and the pews that had replaced the orchestra seats. Upstairs the balcony had been converted to more seating. A few of the parishioners questioned me about who I was and what I was doing there, and they seemed genuinely awestruck when I told them I used to go to the movies there as a kid, 50 years ago.
Then it was on to visit Our Lady of Lourdes, my alma mater. A sign outside says it is being converted into a high school, accepting its first class in September 2008. Itâ€™s designed for lower-income people whose kids may not be able to afford a private school, and allows them to pay their tuition through a work-study program, which is usually only done in college. They were having an open house and I looked around inside. Again, it seemed so much bigger then, but as Dylan sang, I was so much older then, Iâ€™m younger than that now. The principal and a teacher told me the school has been shut for about two years but will now reopen. Another former alumnus of the grammar school was also visiting; he said he graduated in 2002. When I told him I was the valedictorian of the graduating class of 1966, a look came over his face like he couldnâ€™t even imagine humans living on this planet in 1966. It was kind of funny.
I also drove around the neighborhood a little, some of my old haunts, Furman Avenue, where the former Grove Chevrolet service garage is now the temporary (for about the last 30 years) O.L.L. church; the dead end on Granite Street, where lived so many girls I pined for, Linda and Mabel and Willie and Isabel, and where it looks like you can still scale the fence and get onto the L train tracks; Chauncey Street, by Evangelical Deaconess Hospital, which is now some city health clinic or something; and others. The neighborhood was a hellhole when I moved away in â€™71, but now it looks like they have fixed it up a good deal, though Iâ€™m still not sure Iâ€™d want to walk around there at night. They even have some new condos going up right on Bushwick Avenue, which are, of course, labeled â€œluxuryâ€ (nothing seems to get built anymore that isnâ€™t, but luxury condos on Bushwick Avenue? I sincerely doubt it). All in all, the neighborhood doesnâ€™t look too bad, all things considered. Probably some spillover from Billyburg (Bushwick, after all, is often euphemistically referred to as â€œEast Williamsburgâ€).
Aside to John Dereszewski, Hull Street still exists on the other side of Broadway across from DeSales Place. Iâ€™ll check out that website asap. Thanks.
Itâ€™s funny how you start poking around the Web and find this stuff, and people you may have known, or who at least were close by. My wife is Russian and weâ€™ll be in Moscow later this week, and hook up with some of her classmates from 30 years ago. The world gets smaller as the World Wide Web gets bigger. Ciao!
Lisa, you’re right. Pedro Vera. Rudy, his brother, was in my class at Lourdes. Thinking about this actually inspired me to look on a Vietnam memorial page, where his name was listed, along with some poignant comments from family members. I’ll leave a comment when I have time. Your memory is better than mine at this point, but you’re a couple of years less removed. Alan Bursack doesn’t ring a bell offhand, but sounds vaguely familiar. I might have seen you around back then, but I didn’t really know too many girls in the neighborhood. I was pretty shy. Lourdes was segregated, girls on one side of the building, boys on the other. Then I went to SFP, all boys. I was a late bloomer, haha.
PKoch, I also went to one or two of those shows at the Film Forum, saw “13 Ghosts” and “Mr. Sardonicus.” The latter was cheesy but a great plot, based on the short story by Ray Russell, the fiction editor of Playboy. So you and I were at SFP at the same time, maybe sitting next to each other at the Film Forum years later, and now here. Small world, is right. More than 20 years ago I was sitting in a bar in Hong Kong and struck up a conversation with a Chinese woman. She asked me where I was from and I said New York. She said, “Oh, my sister, she live in Brooklyn, New York, on Bushwick Avenue.” You can’t make this stuff up.
Instead of plain old lobby cards or lifesize cardboard displays, many theaters had all kinds of gimmicks. Remember William Castle’s schlock horror movies like “House on Haunted Hill,” with a skeleton attached to a wire, swinging over the heads of the audience? Or “The Tingler,” with seats wired electrically to give a mild shock to the patrons? I saw the trailer for that at the Colonial and remember burying my face in my mother’s coat to hide. The RKO Bushwick had a lobby display for “Day of the Triffids” with a huge, 9-foot-high box, inside which was a periodic thumping. They supposedly had a live “triffid,” a kind of carnivorous plant, inside trying to get out. Even scarier, the Loews Gates had a display for “The H-Man,” an obscure Japanese horror flick about an atomic liquefied mutant green slime that dissolves everybody. They had an outfit of men’s clothing on display, supposedly the remnants of one of its victims, and dared people to touch it and not get “slimed.” At 5 years old, I was so terrified I went home and threw up. Seriously.
I also went to St. Francis Prep, 66-70. Greenpoint is another neighborhood that was Polish working class then, hipster doofus capital now. Lisa, I knew Father Smith well, and Tom Lovett was also in my class. I’ll be 55 soon. I remember Mr. Tops burger place, where I got drunk for the first time in my life, at about 15, on Ripple wine, in the parking lot. Highland Park and its lovers lane. Jimmy the Bungalow Bar man – he had red hair and looked like Mickey Mantle. The OLL bazaars. Rudy Vera and Alan Norris, a couple of schoolmates of mine who both died in Vietnam, their names are on The Wall. I used to play basketball, and there were some incredible ballplayers there, who mostly succumbed to drugs or idleness. It was a great old neighborhood. You look back on this board and you’ll see plenty written about it. You’ll see stuff I wrote about the famous people who lived there: Jackie Gleason, Serpico, etc. Lot of ghosts there.
Just a quick note, unrelated directly but in a roundabout way: I saw “Blade Runner – The Final Cut” at the Ziegfeld Theatre in NY the other day. If you’re a fan of the above movies, that may not be your cup of tea. But it’s one of the last big-screen theaters anywhere, and the highly touted digital restoration of this movie is everything the critics said it was. So bright and sharp it’s almost 3-D. I don’t know if it was a film print or a digital disc, but it was really amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. So I’ve seen the future, and it’s looking good.
Guys, guys, guys … I love this board. Really takes me back. I don’t have a lot of time right now to post in detail, but I’ll catch up later. Just a few quick notes. If you see some of my previous posts you’ll get the answers to some of your questions. Most prominently – I went to Our Lady of Lourdes too, graduated in ‘66, was the class valedictorian. Of course I remember the candy store, and the Franciscan Brothers’ friary right across from the school on Aberdeen. I lived at 1501 Bushwick Avenue, between Furman and Granite, next block was Grove Chevrolet and their service department was around the corner on Furman, later became the temporary home of OLL church after it burned down. Moved away in August 1971. Lisa, Louis Massari was in my class at Lourdes for years, don’t remember his sister. Spent thousands of hours over the years in Aberdeen Park. It’s officially called Stephen A. Rudd Playground, but I never remember anyone calling it that. He was a New York congressman who died in 1931. F&R stood for Fulton and Rockaway – the young John Gotti was a member. I haven’t been to the old neighborhood in many years, but I drove past it a couple of months ago. Today the housing prices are 10-15 times what my parents' house was worth. Amazing. Let’s keep the info going!
Key Food was on Broadway, right under the Jamaica line train at Cooper Street. T'giving eve 1970. A sad anniversary, 10 years. Tomorrow, July 17, is the 100th anniversary of my father’s birth (he died in ‘81). I don’t know who can afford the prices in Bushwick, but as I said, there are a lot of artists and hipsters who buy and rent and basically put everything they can afford into it. Also a lot of immigrants, who scrape together all their money and relatives, work 7 days a week and can afford the American dream.
Peter, Roy and all,
Again, great stuff, quite a trip in the wayback machine. Linoleum guns â€" haha, made plenty of those. Called them carpet guns. Those suckers hurt when you got hit with them, too, THWACK! off your head. And soapbox racers, made with wooden crates, a 2x4 and roller skate wheels. Evergreen Cemetery â€" itâ€™s actually one of 14 that are adjoined and stretch as far away as Forest Park. Some famous people are buried in them, including Harry Houdini. My house overlooked Evergreen and people always said theyâ€™d be too afraid, itâ€™s too morbid, but I said why? Itâ€™s quiet and peaceful and nobody dead is going to hurt you, only the living. Evangelical Deaconess hospital was a few blocks down the street from where I lived. The NY Times had a 30th anniversary story about the blackout and looting in Bushwick on the night of July 13, 1977, and another recent story about homes and rentals and artists there. (Apparently, â€œEast Williamsburgâ€ is now the preferred term to lure hipsters who might be scared off by the real nameâ€™s negative connotations.) It said a three-bedroom apartment at Bushwick Avenue and Pilling Street, which was just two blocks from my house, now goes for $1,600. I also spoke to a guy from that neighborhood not long ago and he said a three-family house house like the one I grew up in now goes for about $800,000. I canâ€™t possibly imagine these prices for this area, as my parents sold ours in 1971 for $50,000 and we were lucky to get that, and get out alive. We moved when my mother got mugged on Thanksgiving eve when she went to buy groceries at Key Food, which was the former Einhornâ€™s you spoke of. She still lives now in Canarsie. A couple of years ago I was out there on the pier and a guy fishing reeled in a small shark, probably a sand shark, thrashing and snarling and pissed off as hell. He had to wait for it to wear itself out before he could even pick it up.
On a whim, I just Googled my old address and actually saw a street level photo of the house I grew up in, like I was standing right in front of it. Try it, you may find your house too!
This is great stuff. Peter. I went to Our Lady of Lourdes, where Jackie Gleason, a public school student, took his religious instruction. I remember the stickball bat (broom) factory very well. I lived a block or so away on MacDougal Street, and got many bats from there. Former Yankee pitcher Bob Grimâ€™s bar was there too; I wrote about that here sometime back.
Roy, I remember some of the stuff you mentioned, like Bohacks, and Terrana Pastry on Broadway and Rockaway, the cannolis, mmm, fuhgeddabout it. The pizzeria on Broadway near the Saratoga Avenue Library, where for 15 cents you got the biggest and best slice you ever ate. Highland Park, of course, the thrill of riding my bike at amazing speed down its long hill, and later, the lovers lane. I took my son over there to see it the other week; heâ€™s the same age now that I was then, some 40 years ago. And “Mrs. Beanbelly.” I donâ€™t remember The Granite Street gang, even though I lived on Bushwick Avenue between Furman Avenue and Granite Street. But Iâ€™ll tell you a good story.
At Lourdes, we and the neighborhood lived in fear of two neighborhood gangs, holdovers from the gang heyday of the â€˜50s: the F&R and the R&R, the Fulton and Rockaway Gang and the Railroad Boys. They were named, respectively, for the street corner and the local railroad tracks in East New York where they hung out. The mere mention of their names sent shivers of fear through the neighborhood, and a rumor whispered through Lourdes â€" â€œthe F&R is cominâ€™!â€ â€" sent everyone running home and emptied the streets. (â€œF&R,â€ of course, was also a play on â€œF*ckinâ€™ R.â€) Mind you, I never actually saw either gang, although a tough kid in my eighth-grade class who periodically shook down and beat up anybody in his way was rumored to be an upcoming member. As I said, the mere mention of their name was enough to send everyone scurrying. It sort of got to the status of an urban legend, but one that no one wanted to try to prove or disprove. I never heard anything about them after I moved away. Until a couple of years ago. When John Gotti died, his long obituary in the NY Times, which I donâ€™t have a copy of at hand and which was written by a famous crime reporter, went into a lot of biographical detail. It mentioned how when he was growing up in Brooklyn, he got his start in crime with a local outfit called the Fulton and Rockaway Gang. So the legend proved to be true, and we survived the reign of terror of one of NYâ€™s most notorious criminals. It would be interesting if it turned out that somewhere along the way, Serpico or those other guys busted him for some minor offense on his way to a stellar career in crime.
The precinct was the 81st. There were a few cops who worked in it or in neighboring precincts who went on to achieve some small amount of fame: Frank Serpico, Eddie Egan (of “The French Connection”) and Dave Greenberg and Robert Hantz, who were known as Batman and Robin and the Supercops. All had movies made about them. I lived in the neighborhood at the various times all were working there, late 50s to early 70s, when the drugs and crime were astounding.
Peter L. I remember the Abar very well but not the name. I remember when it worked and the mechanical piano player played and flopped around on the canopy, and then for years it didn’t work. I was near that neighborhood, around Grand St., the other week. It’s changed a lot, and I’m happy to say for the better, though I couldn’t afford to live there now. And Bill P., another bar near the Colonial was Bob Grim’s. He was a Yankees pitcher and he was in there all the time after he retired. I remember him. I was just a little kid, about 4 years old, and my father used to take me in there and sit me on a bar stool or the pool table. The priests from Our Lady of Lourdes used to drink in there too.