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Anyone catch Regis Philbin reminiscing last night (Monday 3/23/09) on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon about his days as an NBC page? He talked about working at this theater when Steve Allen Show was in production. He mentioned the people on the program, Steve & Edie; Tom Posten, Louie Nye & Bill Dana; being in the balcony and looking down on Steve Allen playing the piano.
Thanks for that excellent marquee photo Warren. In my childhood I could see it from my front stoop at 1713 Woodbine St. On a rainy night when the glazed bricks of the six family houses were wet the lights reflected off them and illuminated two blocks of Woodbine St. The RKO letters had little light bulbs (yellow I think) that would blink and flash out the letters R-K-O over and over again, while the Madison lettering was pink neon and remained lit. They had chasing lights in the area above and below the movie title too, while the wavy neon lights were steady. I didn’t know then quite how lucky I was to have a sight like this in my daily life.
I have enjoyed reading this conversation.
Those of us who grew up enjoying the Ridgewood and the Madison know how they both served as a focal point for the community to come together. These were places you would go to be entertained and maybe forget that all you could afford to live in was a cold water railroad flat in a nice but unglamourous area where elevated trains rumbled by people’s windows.
These were places where people who knew each other and others who did not know each other joined together to be entertained. This is something we former residents of Ridgewood have in common and why we are so nostalgic for these theaters.
In a perfect world we would not like to see the Ridgewood become another discount department store (like the Madison or the RKO Hamilton on Broadway & 146th St). It would be great to have it go the way of the State Theater in New Brunswick or the Count Basie in Red Bank NJ. These theaters survive as non profits welcoming live acts, theater and film:
But I am sure for every theater like these there are 10 that have had a horrible fate. Having this happen at a time when major financial institutions and even General Motors is stuggling is probably not a good omen.
Keep thinking the good thoughts and maybe, just maybe…
Peter, my dad was born in the front room of the 2nd floor right apt at 930 Seneca, three houses from the Elco. My grandparents remembered and talked about the Evergreen Theater being their next door neighbor when they moved there in 1924, and later the Glenwood Manor. Dad’s barber shop was diagonally across the street from the Elco (I believe that would be the SW corner) from about 1959 to 1968 when he moved to Forest Ave near Catalpa.
While I had plenty of relatives who had odd ‘movie dishes’ of various patterns I don’t recall any mention of depression glass in either side of my family.
How can we get one of Warren’s wonderful exterior photos put at the head of this page?
I see Patschaefer mentions china & depression glass given out at the theaters. This is the first time I recall this being mentioned on the Ridgewood area theater pages. I should have read this before putting in a long post on the Parthenon page on the subject of ‘dish night’ and saying it has never been discussed here.
If you have an interest please check out my post on that page and maybe we can document more about this practice from long ago…mrbillyc
I am going to address a topic I have never seen mentioned on Cinema Treasures-dish night at the local theaters.I had a box of dishes in my attic that were in use in my grandmother’s home in Ridgewood into the 80’s.Â She always referred to them as the ‘movie dishes’.Â I kind of knew about the custom of giving out a dish a week at the movies in golden era.Â This week we put some pieces out on display both as a family remembrance and because they kind of match the era of our home.Â It got me curious and I did some research.Â I learned the dishes are made by the Homer Laughlin company.Â They are in existance about 120 years and still owned by decendants of the original founders.Â They are the manufacturers of the very collectable Fiesta Ware since the 1930’s.Â The company made its reputation in practical yet attractive everyday china that was sold in stores like Woolworth’s and other 5-10 cent stores.Â Some of their items were also used as premiums in soap powder, given out at gas stations and movie theaters.Â This link will show the pattern: View link(I am not sure how long this link will remain as it shows items for sale)The pattern is called Spring Wreath.Â The actual shape of the dishes are in a line called Virgina Rose that was made in about different 150 patterns from about 1930 to 1970.Â I asked my mom if she remembered any of this and here was her response:
Â I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if those movie dishes wereÂ Â Â accumulated by your father and me.Â We always got them at the Â Parthenon on Tuesday nights.Â I think they gave the dishes out on Â Tuesday to draw a crowd.Â Most folks went to the Madison or Â Ridgewood on weekends for the latestÂ movies.Â A week later they Â went to the Parthenon for those whoÂ missed them.Â I could never Â understand why they gave out the dishes as you entered the theater Â because all through the movie you’d hear a crash, then everyone Â applauded.Â Sad but funny.Â I don’t think we ever dropped a dish.
My mom’s name was Rita Ott back then and she lived on Woodbine St, with a sightline to the Madison, and a few blocks from the Ridgewood and the Parthenon.Â My dad (Willie Conte) grew up in 930 Seneca Ave, right off Myrtle.Â He had a barber shop on Wierfield & Seneca for many years.Â They dated from 1952 till marriage in 1956, so I venture at least some of these plates are from this era at the ParthenonÂ this time.Â I posted this on the Parthenon page because my mom specifically mentioned that theater (& the Ridgewood Theater page is so long already!); however I am sure this was also done at many of the local theaters.
Can anyone add any interesting information about this custom, or have any personal stories to tell?And I want to add…you can take the boy out of Ridgewood but you can’t take Ridgewood out of the boy…Mr Billy C.
Cindy Vail, were you Cynthia Vail in Mrs. Santoro’s 3rd grade in St. Brigid’s 1965-1966? We may be former classmates-William (Bill) Conte.
Gang, the Ridgewood & the RKO Madison will always be alive in my memories!
I knew something I posted above sounded off kilter…the owner of the Brauhaus was Rosie Wolf (I got the last name wrong, corrected below).
That bar was the Glendale Brauhaus on 68th Ave & I believe 64th Place, about one and a half blocks from the 104th in Glendale. In the 70’s into the 90’s it was run by Rosie Wolf, the lunch/party cook was Luzie Gruber and Rosie’s sister Gertrude Berninger also helped out there alot. It was full of guys from various teams playing in Farmer’s Oval on Sundays. They had a board on the backbar with the badges of retired 104 police officers. It is now a Yugoslavian restaurant.
That bar was the Glendale Brauhaus on 68th Ave & I believe 64th Place, about one and a half blocks from the 104th in Glendale. In the 70’s into the 90’s it was run by Rosie Wagner, the lunch/party cook was Luzie Gruber and Rosie’s sister Gertrude Berninger also helped out there alot. It was full of guys from various teams playing in Farmer’s Oval on Sundays. They had a board on the backbar with the badges of retired 104 police officers. It is now a yugoslavian restaurant.
I passed the Ridgewood last night and I saw that the Simpsons Movie is playing there this week. Do'h!
RFS, I still check in here when I can. I did grow up around the corner from you on Woodbine between Cypress & Seneca during the 60’s & 70’s. What’s your friend’s name?
I passed on the bus Monday evening and it was still there. My dad used to take us there (circa 1962)for ‘frozen custard’ that came out of a machine. Doesn’t the sign say “Madison Coffee Shoppe”? A high class name for a tiny snack bar!
For whatever it is worth, there is mention of the Glenwood Manor which was in the building that once was the Evergreen Theater in the “Our Neighborhood” column of the Times Newsweekly of March 16, 2006. It describes the building and their interesting drink menu. My family memories are that this building burned in the winter of 1956-1957, and we can safely say the menu pre-dates the fire! I stand by my theory that the existing one floor building was once the base of the indoor portion of the Evergreen.
Also, the arial photos are awesome, Bway! In all the photos I am able to see buildings where my family or blood relatives once resided. If I widen the photo of the Ridgewood Theater I can see two buildings I personally lived in on Woodbine St, and the home my maternal grandfather was born in on Cornelia St. The Evergreen photo shows the adjacent homes my family once owned at 930-932 Seneca Ave, my dad’s old barber shop on Wierfield and Seneca, and a house where my family once lived at 54-54 Myrtle Ave. Thanks for these great prospectives you can only get from the air. Billy C.
Warren, having both the Ridgewood and RKO Madison theaters within three blocks of my home for most of my childhood and teen years it is very difficult to separate the theaters themselves from the rest of my life. They were an important part of the experience of living in this community.
I did not know that it is not acceptable to reminisce about anything here except things that stricly pertain to the theater or what happened to you while you were within those walls. Personally I believe that our various neighborhood stories (which cause you inconvenience) prove how much the Ridgewood and Madison Theaters were ingrained into our everyday lives.
So…is this website supposed to be only about the brick theater building or also about the hundreds of thousands who patronized it and these snapshots of everyday life during the theater’s history? I believe these stories help show the fabric of the neighborhoods the theaters served and puts them into context. Thank you Broadway, Lost Memory, Kenroe, PKoch, AprilW and all the rest of you for helping me reinforce my memories of the theaters, the stores around them and growing up in this small town in the big city in the 60’s.
Regards from Billy C
I agree totally LostMemory. Since the theater was just one of the elements of our community it is impossible to totally separate it from our daily life in the neighborhood. For example, it is hard for me to think of the RKO Madison Theater (the one I seemed to go to most often) without thinking of Gottlieb’s, Lee Fong’s, Bickford’s (and later McDonald’s) and best of all Koletty’s Ice Cream Parlor at the same time. These neighborhood places were often part of the experience and went hand in hand.
I left the area in 1990 after a divorce. I now have a home in South Amboy NJ, which looks alot like Glendale with freestanding houses built closely together. It reminded me of where I grew up and I took to the area right away. It is also a fairly quick ride to my family in Queens.
I appreciate this board and the opportunity to keep the memories of my ‘hometown’ very much alive. Regards to all…Billy C.
HI April, thanks for answering that question about “Loew’s” not being on the theater sign that was attached to the wall.
Peter & April, I knew Maureen Daley and her younger sister Patricia. They lived directly across the street from us on Woodbine St. We were sort of kindrid spirits…I think their mom was divorced in the 60’s, and so was mine. In any event neither of us had a dad living with us. And we all went to St. Brigid. 1716 Woodbine was filled with great Irish immigrant families like the Mooney’s and the Murphy’s. It is hard to believe today that ‘single moms’ were not very common in Ridgewood back then.
Best wishes to all…BillyC.
I meant to say the Silver Dollar Club ceased to exist around 1990.
Hi everyone…I had a club meeting to attend on Myrtle & Cypress Hills St. in Glendale last night. I took the opportunity to walk around some streets I had not been on in years. PeterK, my main goal was to check your old block out. What a nice block. I got off the L train and walked along Wyckoff Ave for the first time in decades. The last time I was in there may have been to go to the A&P, Budget Shoes or Lynn’s dress shop (for my sister!). I noticed sort of across the street from where the A&P used to be was an old industial type building dated 1897 in the masonary near the roof-could this remain from the brewery that once took up the block where the RKO Madison was eventually built??
PeterK, you grew up on a very nice block. My walk on Wyckoff was very noisy from traffic and loud Spanish music playing, but once I was about 100 feet onto Cornelia St. it was quiet and very well kept. I had spoken to my aunt about those 6 family houses where I mentioned my grandfather was born. She said if she was there she could pick the house, but she did not know the address. She confirmed my grandfather was born in that apt. in Jan of 1906 (I was off one year) and they were the original tenants in that building. His family lived on one side of the top floor, and my great-grandmother’s sister’s family lived across the hall. They lived there from about 1905 to 1935! The six family homes are the only ones that seem less maintained and bring the block down. I also noticed what a long block it is with no St. Nicholas Ave to split it into two blocks.
My great-grandmother had once told me a WWI story. Before the current bank/drug store building was built on Cypress Ave/Cornelia St. the buildings there looked like the other buildings on the block. I think she said there was a bank there called the Ridgewood National Bank and other stores. She said the local boys would congragate there on their way to the service. They would and say their goodbyes to family here and get picked up on their way to boot camp. She remembered the mothers and girlfriends crying as the boys left.
I caught a ride back to the L train and noticed the Ridgewood was not open last night, but is playing current movies (I distinctly remember the poster for Shaggy Dog).
Re: The Silver Dollar Club-My uncle belonged in the 1950’s and my dad used to go along. Basically it was a social club for members and friends. They had a regular band in a ballroom like setting, and had dances mostly on weekends. You got in for a small fee and could buy beer or setups, as well as soft drinks and light snacks. I think this was sort if a national organization and you could apply to form local branches After this location they moved to the second floor of 65-04 Myrtle Ave. In the mid 70’s the Catholic Kolping Society had bought this building and asked Silver Dollar Club to move. They moved to Dry Harbor Rd/80th St. right near St. John’s Cemetary. I believe they were evicted from this location in the 80’s and they worked a deal with the Kolping Society to be a regular tenant again on Myrtle Ave. This believe this group ceased to exist around 1980.(I only know all this because I belong to the Kolping Society).
Sorry to be so lenghty, but one more item. I have been asking people I know in Ridgewood about the new mall & theater at Atlas Terminals. I keep hearing that Myrtle Ave. is in no danger because this whole area is still pretty much working class and the new mall will feature high end stores. My family and friends in the area feel that the new mall will mostly pull from higher end areas like Austin St. Time will tell how this all plays out.
My best wishes to everyone…Billy C.
Peter K-I goofed. I did mean Cornelia St. I have not been on this block in years, but aren’t there a few six family homes on the same side of the street as the former Manufacturer’s Hanover bank? I recall later photos that were taken on the roof of that 6 family where you could see the water tower of the RKO Madison behind my posed relatives. Sorry for my confusion.
Being a child in a six family house in the 60’s I always thought those who were in a 2 family like yours Peter, were ‘rich’ compared to us! I now know better…
And Lost Memory, let’s not forget the Evergreen Theater on Seneca and Myrtle Ave which closed in the 20’s!
Lost Memory-you must have lived on Linden St. between Cypress Ave & St. Nicholas Ave, up the street from St. Brigid Church. I knew a family on that block in one of those 3 family homes with the bow window on the front and the back. I have always found it fascinating how quickly this area was built up once the trains were extended to Lutheran Cemetary. Those are the most solidly built homes you will ever find. I have family ties in the Brooklyn end of the neighborhood that go back to about 1880 on my mom’s side when the Queens end was almost all farmland with unpaved roads.
And the Ridgewood Theater plays a role in my personal family history as I described in my post of Aug 12, 2005-(My dad & stepmom will celebrate their 40th anniversary on April 18)…Billy C.
Hi everyone. That opening date of Dec 1916 sound very reasonable to me. I have always been interested in the history, development and architecture of my old neighborhood. I beg to differ slightly with Peter’s statement that Ridgewood only began booming and thriving after WW I ended in 1918; I believe most of the Ridgewood we know today went up from about 1905-1915. Here are a few items I base this on:
1. My maternal grandfather was born in a six family brick house on Jefferson Ave. near Cypress Ave in 1905 (Peter’s childhood block. My great- grandmother (his mother) always said they were the first tenants in that house when it was brand new, so I presume it was built prior to January 1905.
2. My childhood home at 17-13 Woodbine St. was built in 1911-1912. The builder Bauer & Stier put up most (not all) of the row houses within these boundaries: from Linden St on the north, Seneca Ave on the west, Putnam Ave on the south, and St. Nicholas Ave on the west at this time. The ‘dummy tracks’ were elevated shortly after this part of the neighborhood was built, around 1914.
3. My paternal grandparents bought two six family homes at 930 & 932 Seneca Ave (next to the Evergreen Theater) around 1919 and were the second owners. Our family always thought those buildings went up around 1912-13.
4. On the other side of the neighborhood, my dad now lives on DeKalb Ave between Onderdonk & Woodward in a two family erected in 1912.
5. I used to own a two family home at 1873 Stockholm St. and that beautiful street of two family bay window/porch homes went up in 1910.
Does anyone know when the Gustave Matthews ‘model flats’ went up and developed that neighborhood around St. Matthias church with dozens of six family homes?
I really believe that by 1916 there was more than enough population here for a grand theater like the Ridgewood to survive. I think by 1918 the builders had moved to ‘upper’ Ridgewood and Glendale where there was still a bit of vacant land.
Thanks for keeping this dialogue running-I truly enjoy it! Billy C.
I consider myself a lucky person to have enjoyed many a movie at the RKO Madison, and to have been able to see the chasing lights and the letters R-K-O light up on the marquee from our stoop at 17-13 Woodbine Street. On rainy days the lights reflected off the wet bricks on the six family homes! I think I still mourn the loss.
By the way, my dad is mentioned in the Our Neighborhood column in the Times Newsweekly this week, 2/6/06. His graduation photo from PS77 was submitted by a classmate who wrote a nice article. He got a real kick out of it. My family ties to Ridgewood go back to the 1880’s on my mom’s side, and 1917 on my dad’s side, so you can see why I will always feel connected to my ‘hometown’.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for both Ridgewood and THE Ridgewood!
To add another dimension to this ongoing discussion, this morning I heard a local piece on WNYC-FM (during Morning Edition) about Brooklyn real estate. They commented that many people are outpriced in Manhattan have moved to Brooklyn in recent years. They specifically mentioned the gentrification going on today in Bedford Stuyvesant and Bushwick. Now if Bushwick can come back, surely some of this will spill over to Ridgewood. Unfortunately, this kind of gentrification will forever change the ‘working class’ flavor of these neighborhoods but it sure beats seeing block after block abandoned or burned (think Bushwick in the late 1970’s). As for the theater itself…my pipe dream is that it gets landmarked and can not have its usage changed. I imagine it being converted back to one theater and used for the arts and community events that require a large venue. I now live in Middlesex county NJ and there are several old vaudeville and movie theaters that are used for live events (Count Basie Theater in Red Bank and the (former RKO)State Theater in New Brunswick come to mind).
We can dream, can’t we??
I get into Ridgewood 3-4 times per month. This past Monday as I approached the Ridgewood Theater I noticed a new cafe style restaurant that has recently opened about two doors west of the theater entrance on Myrtle Avenue. It is atypical of what you find in the neighborhood-it appears to be an upscale, smartly decorated and well lit cafe. I was on the bus and could not catch the name of the place. I have been noticing many small signs of improvement in the past few years and I take this as a good omen for the area. This could only help insure the future of the last remaining theater from Ridgewood’s heyday.
I am also happy to report the renovation of the Myrtle/Wyckoff subway station is moving along and the new tile frieze is an exact reproduction of the original one. I look forward to the final results. Regards to all who grew up in this great neighborhood.