Park Theater

1018 Penn Street,
Reading, PA 19601

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 22, 2015 at 6:01 pm

ROCKER4EVER: Google News Archive displays images in Flash, so you can’t right-click to copy. You have to take a screenshot (use “PrtScr” key in the top row of your keyboard on most computers) and then open an image editing program (I use IrfanView, but there are a number of others, and there is also Windows Paint, which can be used to save a screenshot) and save the screenshot to it. If you have Windows 8, you have a feaure that saves screenshots directly to files, as described on this page.

ROCKER4EVER on July 22, 2015 at 2:02 pm

anyone know how to copy and paste the ads on that Google News Search,I tried but couldnt do it,thanks

ROCKER4EVER on July 22, 2015 at 1:55 pm

yes it was used for burlesque as i found out by using Google News Search Archive and looking for old Reading Eagle newspapers. I highly recommend doing so but be prepared to spend some time as it is quite impossible to stop searching the old theater ads :)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 3, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Internet reveals that James S. Maurer was operator of the Park Theatre from at least as early as 1964. Ads for the theater from that year indicate that at least part of the time it was a live burlesque house. Other sources called it an art theater, but I think they were using the term euphemistically (meaning that it presented “adult” fare during that time period.)

This rather large PDF contains a scrapbook of clippings related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and among them are a couple of items pertaining to the appearance at Maurer’s Park Theatre of an exotic dancer using the stage name Jada. Jada had purportedly been Dallas night club owner (and assassin of JKF assassin Lee Harvey Oswald) Jack Ruby’s girlfriend.

RickB on July 3, 2015 at 5:00 pm

Here is an issue of the Reading Eagle with a story on the demise of the theater on Page 1 and some of its history on Page 3. The fire that put the theater out of business came on May 19, 1978; the November 20 fire mentioned in the description just caused a little more damage to the ruins.

As for James Maurer, per the story he was operating the theater as a burlesque house in 1964, when he and two strippers were arrested in a raid. Sometime between 1974 and 1976 he bought the theater building; he is reported to have leased it to a Trenton, New Jersey company in September 1976, leading to the return of burlesque at the Park. However, Maurer must have still been involved in the operation of the theater as he was arrested in another raid in January 1977. On May 3, 1978, the city declared the theater and the adjoining Daniel Boone Hotel unfit for human habitation. Maurer appealed the ruling and both businesses stayed open, but the fire rendered the appeal moot.

ROCKER4EVER on July 3, 2015 at 4:19 pm

It also says on the ad James S. Maurer’s Park Theater,can anyone shed light on that?

ROCKER4EVER on July 3, 2015 at 4:08 pm

If you Google News They have old Reading Eagles on there,I just looked at an ad for The Park Theater for Oct 30,1970,the ad says 1018 Penn Street. Features playing are The Playpen and Bride & The Beast

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 12, 2014 at 5:40 pm

The November 11, 1926, issue of the Reading Times said that the Park Theatre would open that night. The opening feature was Her Big Night, starring Laura LaPlante, plus there were vaudeville acts, an organ recital, and the Park Orchestra.

JimmiB on July 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Also, the Google map and image are of Penn Ave. in Wyomissing. Not even close.

JimmiB on July 9, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Absolutely correct Chuck. 19601

JimmiB on January 3, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Looking at the picture and the address, I believe that is the same site as the later Astor Theatre. I’ll comment further on your Arcadia page.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 3, 2011 at 5:14 pm

JimmiB: Please take a look at my recent comments on the Arcadia Theatre page. There’s a link to a 1909 magazine item about a theater, originally called the Victor, at 748 Penn Street. At first I thought it might have been the theater you knew in the 1950s as the stinky Ritz, but Ken Roe found a different address for the Ritz. It’s possible that the Victor didn’t last long, in which case you still might reconize the building as the location of some other business.

JimmiB on January 3, 2011 at 9:11 am

I just noticed that the header on this post has the Park listed as 1022 Penn Street. More than likely that is the actual address.

JimmiB on January 3, 2011 at 9:09 am

I was wrong about the block. It WAS in the 1000 block of Penn St, probable address of 1028 Penn. BTW, Rt. 422 is Penn Avenue through West Reading. From the center of the Penn Street Bridge it becomes Penn Street through Reading, as far as 11th Street where it becomes Perkiomen Avenue. I just checked on Google maps, and that address looks right.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 3, 2011 at 5:50 am

The street name in the header needs to be changed from Penn Avenue to Penn Street. There is a Penn Avenue in Reading, so the Google Maps link currently fetches the wrong location. The caption for the photos Lost Memory linked to in the preceding comment gives the location of the Park as the 1000 block of Penn Street.

The “Related Websites” link in the intro is dead, by the way.

JimmiB on July 25, 2009 at 9:55 pm

You’re right Mike. It was the Ritz. I believe it was next door to Reads. I think I do remember your mom. Really is a small world. Had you gone to the Ritz you’d know why it was called the Stinky. Place had a real musty smell. I think I was only in there once.

MikelD on July 25, 2009 at 6:17 pm

I don’t recall a theater dead on the northeast corner. I believe there was a Reads department store which was later occupied as a music store. But there definitely was another theater on the north side of Penn Street called the Ritz. I cannot give you the exact location. I think it was somewhere between 7th and 9th. It was no longer open by the time I was old enough to roam Penn Street on my own as a kid. I never saw the inside. I was born in 1950 so it shut down most likey prior to 1958.

Speaking of “A Small Planet”, it sure is a small world. My mom worked at the candy counter of the Astor at the same time you mentioned being an usher there. If you were to remember her, you would probably know her as Josie. I spent a lot of time in that beautiful palace. In fact I seem to recall the space suit. I was a rather frequent fixture in those days. I must have saw 101 Dalmations 101 times

JimmiB on July 24, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Good to hear from someone else who lived in the 1100 block of Penn St. When I was an usher at the Astor in the early 60’s, they had me dress up in a space suit and walk around downtown advertising for Jerry Lewis' “Visit To A Small Planet”. Walked through all the downtown theaters without a problem except the Park threw me out!
Hey, maybe you remember the name. There used to be a small theater at 7th and Penn on the northeast corner by the railroad tracks. I only remember its nick-name, “The Stinky”. Think it closed in the late 50’s.

MikelD on July 24, 2009 at 5:37 pm

JimmiB your memory is quite accurate; I lived across the street from the early 50’s until about 1962/63. Prior to the burlesque days, I recall Saturday continuous, “all day”, running horror flicks. One time they had Wolfman, Frankenstein and Dracula ‘live’ in the lobby. Frankenstein and Wolfman were held in chains while Dracula kept them at bay with a whip. It turned into a near riot when one of the monsters broke loose. The management never did that one again.

JimmiB on May 18, 2009 at 7:09 pm

The Park Theatre was a prominant fixture several in my lifetime. In the photo above, the Dolly Madison sign next to the marquee was the entrance to the Park Luncheonette, which had a glass door connecting it to the theatre lobby. At the rear of the luncheonette was a stairway leading down to the Park Bowling Alley. Below that were several levels of catacombs. I have no idea why they were there. Had one chance to explore them. They were empty rooms with years of dirt except for one that had obviously been a bar. (Perhaps an old speak-easy?) To the north (left)of the marquee is the entrance to the Daniel Boone Hotel, which took up the rest of the building. This was a transient flop house with very small rooms. Next door is the Frontier Bar, not the finest place in town.

My connections: About 1952, it was the first place my friend and I were allowed to walk to the movies by ourselves. They were running kid shows on Saturday mornings. Had my first job,a pin setter at the bowling alley in 1956. Got paid 10 cents per frame. Saw my first burlesque show there in 1960. In 1964 I lived directly across the street. At this time the Park was still showing X-rated films and burlesque shows on the weekends. After it closed the former owner leased the Astor Theatre in Annville Pa, between Lebanon and Hershey on route 422, and ran X-rated movies there for a short time.

teecee on August 29, 2005 at 2:20 am

A Wurlizter organ, opus 1472, was installed in this theater on 10/12/1926.