Garvey Theater

8100 block of Garvey,
Rosemead, CA 91770

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 7, 2006 at 5:17 am

Wilmar was actually a bit farther west (The Times probably didn’t know too much about the area.) Shortly after 1950, the unincorporated communities of Wilmar, Garvey and Potrero Heights were consolidated (by the post office department, I think) under the name of South San Gabriel. Incorporation was attempted a couple of times, but eventually the locals gave up and most of the place ended up being annexed by the city of Rosemead in the 1960’s, with a few parts being annexed by San Gabriel, Monterey Park, South El Monte and Montebello. Most of what was once Potrero Heights remains unincorporated even now though, and still goes by the name of South San Gabriel.

vokoban on January 7, 2006 at 4:49 am

How many times has this town’s name changed? Has it been Wilmar, Garvey, and Rosemead? Very confusing.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 7, 2006 at 3:02 am

I lived in Rosemead until August of 1986, so I remember when they built the K-Mart, but not the exact year. I was only in it once, in 1982, I think. I think the Garvey Theatre and the rest of the block were demolished close to the end of the 1970’s, or maybe as late as 1980. Even with an opening date before 1938, the Garvey was probably a church for longer than it was a theatre.

jmarellano on January 6, 2006 at 9:10 pm

Joe, the Kmart opened when I was young. I beleive in the early 80s cause I remember it opening. This Kmart only lasted a few years and was closed by the late 80’s, becoming a Builders Square store for a few years, then closing in the early 90s. It was vacant for several years before a Chinese supermarket moved in by the mid 90’s. I remember seeing them gut out the store, and they still had the Builders Square interior still there.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 6, 2006 at 8:08 pm

Thanks, vokoban. This clears up some mysteries. That is indeed the same Garvey Theater, but it was built a bit earlier than I had thought if it was already open in January of 1938. I remember Mr. Greely, too, vaguely. He ran a small drug store across the street from the theatre, and also owned Greely’s Trailer Park. I had no idea his first name was Horace, though.

The second article names the Granada Theatre in Alhambra, which was later known as the Coronet and then the Capri. Now we can be sure that the first name change occurred after July of 1941. This theatre was also operated by Edwards, though I’m not sure just when they took over.

The date of the Garvey’s fire was a bit earlier than I thought it had been, too. I’d had the impression that the fire had happened about the time I turned five, but March 23rd 1949 was only two months and a few days after my fourth birthday.

The “San Gabriel Valley Theater” on Las Tunas mentioned in the fire article as the scene of a previous suspicious fire was the Edwards San Gabriel, posted at Cinema Treasures under its later name, Edwards Century. I wasn’t aware that it was one of the theatres which had had a fire.

The 1952 article about someone rehearsing at the theatre is a bit puzzling. The Garvey had no stage to speak of— just a small platform in front of the screen, not even behind the curtain, and no fly tower at all. They did have a magician perform at the theatre once, but that’s the only live event that I know of having taken place there. When the place was later converted to a church, I think they extended the platform out a few feet, sacrificing (no pun intended) a couple of rows of seats.

The 1953 article about the revival meeting confirms my vague memory that the Garvey was a church for a while fairly early in the decade. It later re-opened as a theatre, briefly, but when CinemaScope came along, Edwards didn’t think the place worth the investment for a new screen, and it returned to being a church, which it remained until its demolition.

Thanks again for posting this information. I’m a bit surprised that The Times contains so many mentions of this obscure suburban theatre.

vokoban on January 6, 2006 at 7:11 pm

I’m not sure that this is the same theater, but here are a few things about a theater called Garvey from the LA Times:

(Jan. 23, 1938)
Horace R. Greely of Garvey, who saved the life of Jonnie Giampapa, 8 years of age, will be presented with a Carnegie award in the Garvey Theater, Friday at 6:30 p.m.

(July 16, 1941)
….His complaint was directed as representing the Mission Playhouse, San Gabriel; the Alhambra, El Rey, Granada and Garfield theaters, Alhambra; Monterey Theater, Monterey Park; Rosemead Theater, Rosemead; Garvey Theater, Wilmar; Temple city, and Edwards Theater Circuit, Alhambra…..

(March 23, 1949)
Possibility of arson in the early morning burning of part of the Garvey Theater, 716 E Garvey Blvd., Wilmar, was indicated yesterday as the Sheriff’s arson squad investigated suspicious factors of the $60,000 blaze. Lt. David Ostraff of the Sheriff’s arson detail found a broken window and indications that an arsonist might have poured flammable fluid on the rear seats, where the outbreak is believed to have originated. The fire spread to the attic and into the roof. The theater was unoccupied at the time. It required five engine companies to curb the fire. March 10 the San Gabriel Valley Theater, 330 W Las Tunas blvd., San Gabriel, was badly damaged by a fire which Ostraff said he thought was of incendiary origin.

(Dec. 15, 1950)
Under the direction of Capt. R.A. Cook, commandant of the station, the following theaters will hold the Christmas parties under this schedule: Dec. 21-Garvey Theater, Garvey, 10 a.m. to noon; Dec. 22-Tumbleweed Theater, El Monte;……

(June 1, 1952)
Arthur Bayer as Aaron Slick and Thelma Hurley as Rosy Bery rehearse for “Aaron Slick of Punkin Crick” Friday and Saturday at Garvey Theater.

(June 27, 1953)
Evangelist Tommy Hicks will preach at a 7:30 o'clock revival series meeting tonight, winding up the first week of a campaign sponsored by the South San Gabriel Full Gospel Churches. Services are conducted each evening at 7:30 and at 10 a.m. daily except Saturday at the Garvey Theater, South San Gabriel. Sunday afternoon meetings are at 2:30.

(Aug. 4, 1957)
Dr. Pierce P. Brooks of Dallas, insurance executive and lay evangelist, will conduct a series of revival meetings starting tomorrow at the Old Garvey Theater, San Gabriel and Garvey Ave. The meetings will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 5, 2004 at 7:24 am

Most of those little towns in the South Bay also have their own local numbering systems, don’t they? I don’t think you’ll be safe from street-numbering confusion anywhere around Los Angeles!

I said in my post above that the Garvey was just east of the wash. I meant west! To the east of the wash was just a tiny triangle of land with a big billboard on it. (I think I need more sleep.)

Manwithnoname on November 5, 2004 at 7:14 am

Thanks. Maybe I’ll just move back to Torrance. :–)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 5, 2004 at 7:09 am


Monterey Park has its own numbering system, with east-west numbers starting at Garfield Avenue. The unincorporated community of Garvey, which is now part of the City of Rosemead, was apparently on the numbering system of the City of San Gabriel during these years, and the east-west numbers started at Del Mar Avenue. The area has since been renumbered, and now uses the L.A. County system, with east-west numbers starting at Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. But the Garvey theater, now gone for some 25 years, was indeed just west of San Gabriel Boulevard, in what is now probably the 8100 block. It has always been difficult to find places in the San Gabriel Valley, because almost every little town has its own numbering system, and all the little towns run together in one continuous mass.

Manwithnoname on November 5, 2004 at 6:58 am

The above comment is where 716 is today.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 5, 2004 at 6:57 am


The Garvey was my old neighborhood theater. Until shortly after my sixth birthday, I lived on Falling Leaf Avenue, near Newmark. Because the theater was only a couple of blocks from out house, and I had an older brother and sister, I was allowed to go to Saturday matinees with them for most of the last two years we lived there, except the few months it took to rebuild the theater after the fire. (My brother and sister were allowed to go to the Tumbleweed in El Monte during that hiatus, but my parents thought I was too young to go that far without an adult.) I probably saw more than a hundred movies there, altogether.

The theater was just east of the wash, and its parking lot extended along the wash all the way from Garvey to San Gabriel Boulevard, so it had driveways entering from both streets. The rest of that block of Garvey was built up, but there were still a couple of vacant lots behind those buildings and fronting on Pine Street that we used to cut through, and then walk up to the theater entrance through the parking lot. Using that short cut, it only took us a few minutes to walk from our house to the box office. Very convenient.

I don’t remember in which year the whole block was demolished and the K-Mart was built, but I think it was in the late seventies. I wish that I had been able to get some relic from the theater. The hallway leading to the rest rooms had small versions of the chandeliers in the auditorium. One of those would have been a perfect souvenir, but I have no idea what became of them when the place was torn down. I hope that some collector got them, and they didn’t end up in a landfill somewhere.

Manwithnoname on November 5, 2004 at 6:56 am

716 E. Garvey is in Monterey Park. The William Trading Co. aka William Printing Co. is listed at this location.

jmarellano on November 5, 2004 at 6:21 am

700 block would have placed this theatre near the corner of San Gabriel and Garvey, where the old KMart store is located (now a chinese supermarket).

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 5, 2004 at 4:51 am


Thanks for the information. I must say that I’m surprised by that address! I know that the addresses in the area were changed, sometime around 1950, but a street number of 716 for the Garvey theater must mean that the east-west streets in Garvey were based on the numbering system of the City of San Gabriel at that time. I lived on a north-south street then, and I do remember our street number being changed, but it only changed from the 2600 block to the 2700 block.

Also, the reduction in the theater’s seating capacity might have been the result of changes made when the place had to be restored following the fire.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on November 5, 2004 at 3:19 am

The address listed in the Film Daily Yearbooks 1950 and 1952 is; Garvey Theatre, 716 E. Garvey Avenue, Garvey, CA. A seating capacity of 740 is given.

The 1941 F.D.Y lists the Garvey Theatre in Garvey (no address given) with a seating capacity of 750.