Matsonian Theatre

284 W. Buck Street,
Caldwell, TX 77836

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Matsonian Theatre

The Matsonian Theatre was opened February 9, 1930. It was a conversion of a former Buick dealership by Mrs. C.W. Matson who had operated the towns' Isis Theatre. From at least 1952 until 1955 it was operating as an African-American theatre. It was still open in 1957. The theatre has been demolished, all except for the facade of the theatre. At one time it had been an open air market. A rusted sign hanging on the front of the building says “Old theater market”.

Contributed by John Stewart

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 28, 2017 at 5:05 am

The Matsonian Theatre was in a different building than the Isis. Articles in The Caldwell News prior to the opening of the new house called it the Isis Theatre, but an item in the Friday, February 14, 1930, issue of the paper, which also carried an article about the opening the previous Monday (Feb. 9) announced a contest to name the new theater. Another front page article said that the Isis Theatre’s former location in the Barnett Building was being remodeled to accommodate a Piggly Wiggly grocery store.

An item in a January issue of the paper had said that Mrs. C.W. Matson, who had taken over operation of the Isis Theatre, had leased a building formerly occupied by a Buick dealership and would remodel it as a new home for the theater. The opening of the new house also marked the debut of talking pictures in Caldwell.

Frank Angel
Frank Angel on March 4, 2017 at 5:25 pm

I was projectionist at both the Matsonian Theatre in Cadwell and also Mr. Matson’s Drive-in on the outskirts of town. I believe it was the Skyview or Skyway. This was in about 1965, so it was still operating at least until 1965 or 6. I only met Mr. Matson, never met Mrs. C W Matson — she may have passed by then. Mr. Matson was quite old — I would guess well into his 80s.

The Drive-in and the hardtop didn’t operate simultaneously — he ran the Drive-In during the warm weather and when it got cold, he would move everything to the indoor theatre downtown, and I mean everything — the two theatres shared essentials like projector lenses, reels, rewind equipment. When it got cold enough, you would drive up to the DI marquee and the lettering would say, “We’ve moved to the Matsonian in town.”

The indoor had Centurys and Magnarc lamps, the DI had Centuries and Ashcraft lamps. The three things I remember distinctly about the indoor was, first, there was a single RCA 45 player on a shelf in the booth and Mr. Matson insisted that I play during intermissions. On it there was only a single record – The Yellow Rose of Texas. Evidently it had been there for years; it was so warn that the surface noise was louder than the music. I begged him to relent and at least let me play the other side, but no, he want to play that song; he said everyone who came to the Matsonian knows they are going to hear The Yellow Rose of Texas. So it played over and over until the picture started!

The second distinct thing I remember was that there was no glass in the booth view ports and kids in the balcony would use the ports to test their jump shots, seeing if they could get their soda cups into the booth. Evidently this was great fun…for them at least. Occasionally one would lob by my head still containing a quantity of soda. I soon realized that at least for the Saturday kids matinees, it would be prudent to close the fire shutters during intermission.

And lastly, Mr. Matson took me into a hallway that ran the entire length of the building and on both walls were rickety wooden racks with shelving that ran from floor to ceiling, and the shelves were marked 1930, 1931, 1932..etc up to the present. In each one of these partitions were 1-sheet movie posters that he and Mrs. Matson had saved since the theatres were opened. In my youthful naivete I thought, what is this old guy saving this trash for. Had I known back then what I know today…he even told me to take any if I wanted them. Foolishly I declined, thinking they were worthless. I always wondered if when they did finally demolish the theatre, if anyone at the time knew how much those 1-sheets were going to be worth very shortly; even if the theatre survived into the 80s, it wasn’t until the 90s that collectors began creating a demand for old movie 1-sheets. Today I bet those posters would be worth thousands of dollars apiece.

I only stayed projectionist at the Matsonian for about 4 months; I moved on to the Campus Theatre in College Station.

Frank Angel
Frank Angel on May 9, 2017 at 6:17 pm

I would just like to add, that it was the Bell Circle DI that I worked for Mr. Matson during the summer, not the Skyview. I worked the Circle DI in College Station and the Skyview DI in Bryan the year before, so yes, the memory fails at times — all that weed in the 60s taking its toll! :–) And one additional note, the Matsoninan Theatre, the “hard-top,” was also affectionately called the “Ratsonian” by the projectionists because to get to the booth, we had to climb into the hang ceiling and walk across rickety wood planks and there on either side of that path you would see what we all thought were rat skeletons. In reality, they were more likely pigeon and mice bones rather that rats, but some seemed large enough to be rats. You would walk quite gingerly to make sure you didn’t misstep and hear that crunching sound under foot!

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