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I used to work in the Granite Trust building, as a short-order cook at the Howard Johnsons restaurant located on the ground floor (his first “real” restaurant, it even had a liquor license). At least I think it was in the bank building, or maybe next door – it was a long time ago. Anyway, we would have a tidal flow of customers based on the schedule of movies at the Strand. Often after work I would go over to the Strand to watch a film, never thinking that a short-order cook brings with him all the semi-delightful fragrances of the greasy kitchen. I hope I didn’t offend any of you…
At this point in time it seems doubtful that the Empire could ever be restored. It is thoughly restructured and only the marquee remains. The area could definitely use an arts center, but if it ever happens it won’t be downtown. Had local officials been sufficiently thoughtful and foresighted, they might have imposed a requirement on the owners of the new casino in Shingle Springs that they either restore the Empire or build a suitable facility elsewhere. If the casino people could spend $20 million for a freeway interchange, they could have come up with a few hundred thousand for a world-class arts center as well.
Has anyone seen this venue lately? Might it be possible that the closing in October 2007 was a seasonal thing, given the area’s tourist orientation? I’d hate to think that all the time, effort, and money was for naught…
I don’t know about “first twin cinema” but I can tell you about the Cinema-Guild and Studio and the most bizarre “twin bill” I’ve ever experienced. It was in the mid or late 1960s. The two films were “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “The Pawnbroker.” Like I said, bizarre!
Sometime in the recent past, probably the 1980s, the owner of the Wollaston Theater (perhaps Mr. Chandler) stated, in effect, “Ratings be damned!” and announced that henceforth he would not enforce the policy that prohibited persons under 18 (or whatever the age is) from viewing “R” rated films. I think there was a notice to that effect posted outside the theater. It caused something of a tempest in the local teapot, although the owner was only stating outright what many other theater owners had been doing tacitly. If it was in fact Mr Chandler, then I admire him for his bold assault on the latter-day Puritanism of the rating system, and it should be remembered as part of his legacy. Perhaps someone else knows more about this, and can confirm, deny, or elucidate the story.
I was in Buzzards Bay on September 12 and took some pictures of the exterior. The theater didn’t look like it was being renovated but there was some activity inside. I’m glad to hear it is being brought back to life. I went to this theater several times in the ‘50s when my family was vacationing in Wareham. Thanks and good luck, Jeff.
The Thomas Crane Public Library’s website “Quincy Historic and Architectural Survey” (a wonderful but poorly maintained resource) has info on the Wolly at http://ci.quincy.ma.us/tcpl/htm/house9.htm
I grew up in the Wollaston Beach area and in the late ‘40s and early '50s I attended “The Wolly” many Saturday afternoons. It was only a quarter for a double feature. Some of my friends (but not me!) used to nick an apple or two from Louie the Gyp’s fruit stand next door on the way into the theater. Later, as a teenager, the theaters in Quincy Square (the Strand et al) and the Quintree held more appeal, but now and then I still patronized the Wolly on Friday nights.
There is an interesting legend about the Wollaston Theater that I heard when I worked for Howard Johnson’s (didn’t we all, at one time or another?). In the late ‘20s a play by Eugene O'Neill (maybe “Long Day’s Journey…”) was to open in Boston but was banned. The producer’s search for an alternate venue led to the Wollaston Theater, because it had a stage, as did most movie theaters back then, and was only a block or so from the NYNH&H railroad depot (now the Wollaston “T” station). Thus Boston theater patrons who might want to see a new O'Neill play (and who among them wouldn’t?) could easily reach the theater. Located at the Wollaston depot was a drug store and soda fountain owned by one Howard Johnson. As the legend goes, the Bostonians who journeyed to exotic Wollaston were so taken by his ice cream that they spread its fame far and wide, thus paving the way for his expansion. Well, that’s the legend – I can only verify the location of the depot and the original HoJo’s. Maybe someone in the area could research it further…