Peerless memories

posted by Michael Zoldessy on March 28, 2007 at 4:34 am

BROOKLYN, NY — My father’s drycleaner/tailor shop was at 437 Myrtle and as a kid hanging out at dad’s store, I would be given 75 cents to get out of his hair for a couple of hours at the Peerless Theater two doors down.

The building and the interior are today exactly as they were in the early 1960’s when the theater was open for business. Today the interior is even better than it was then because everything is well painted and maintained. The marquee was taken down in the late sixties as I recall, and the front doors were replaced at that time.

The people who lived upstairs had no sound problem because the seats and the screen were actually in a separate building that was 75' down a 20 foot wide entranceway that also housed the ticket booth (on the right side). This area immediately behind the front doors was ostensibly for holding the throngs waiting for the next “sell out show.”

After you walked down the corridor, which is the same length and width as the stores to the right of the movie, you entered the theater proper at the last row of seats with the screen to your right. The wall at the back of the screen is actually on Waverly Avenue. The rear emergency exits lead to a courtyard that is behind Jive Turkey, 3 Stars Laundromat, Yes Cleaners and “Doo’s” barber shop. There is a fire escape from some upper area by the screen that leads down to the courtyard but I wouldn’t think that it could hold two pigeons at the same time these days.

The candy counter was under the screen so that management could save on a matron who, by law, had to be present whenever school was not in session in order to mind the kids. With the candy counter under the screen, the matron could do double duty as candy salesman and matron while remaining in compliance.

The place was never air conditioned but was instead cooled by two enormous, 5-speed electric fans. When the theater closed, my father bought them both and they cooled Tony The Tailor Drycleaners until 2002 when he closed the doors. They were discarded during the subsequent renovation by the present tenant.

There are two windows on the right wall (facing the screen) that were shaded but open during the summer. They were too high to see in from the hidden courtyard, but I could always HEAR the movie while standing in the shade of my father’s gigantic fig trees that were planted against that wall.

Those fig trees had to be the biggest fig trees in the state. The courtyard was closed in on all four sides and was heated, year-round by the window mounted exhaust fans from the laundromat and the drycleaner. They must have thought that they were in the Mediterranean because they extended so high that we couldn’t reach the topmost fruit with the Peerless' marquee ladder that we also “acquired” when they closed the doors!

So it’s all still there…and better than ever. If you stand in the courtyard on weekends, you can be treated to the sound of a full gospel choir!

There’s a short angle photo of the Peerless' marquee available on line. The photo was taken from the north side of Myrtle Avenue facing east from the middle of Clinton Ave. with the old Myrtle Avenue El coming toward the camera on its way to “Bridge & Jay”. I see a 1968 or 1969 Buick parked at the curb. The el came down in 1971, so that should give you an approximate date. The photo is located online. That’s the Peerless' marquee just to the right of the sign that says “CIGARS”.

I’m interested in getting a copy of that DVD. Somebody tell me how. I am John Chiarella ().

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Comments (5)

kong1911 on March 28, 2007 at 12:23 pm

I looked at the photo under the highest magnification that I could and detected that there are no words on the marquee. I’ve used this many times before to detect the approx. year of the photo but in this case the Peerless was closed and empty. Many church groups use the marquee to call attention that a church is there.

shoeshoe14 on March 28, 2007 at 2:55 pm

John! Danbury Dave Bonan from Connecticut! Funny running into you here!

BrooklynJim on April 2, 2007 at 9:56 am

Great memories, John! We were once neighbors a block apart!

The guy with the DVDs is Alan I. Zelazo in Morris Plains, NJ. If you go to eBay, search for subwayal. (Please be aware that he offers 2 separate DVDs on the old el, but what you want for the Peerless c. ‘68-'69 is not shown on the one entitled “An El Called Myrtle.”) If you have any trouble locating him, let me know & I’ll e-mail you his address. I just may write you anyway…

BurtD on March 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I am the brother of BobD. I was 3 years old when I first stepped foot in to our Grandfathers Movie Theater in 1953. His name was Abraham Cohen and as far as I know the first talking picture played in the Peerless in the Borough of Brooklyn. Here’s the story. My Grandfather came to America before World War 2 and came through Michigan. He sold rags to housewives and was known back then as a Customer Peddler. He eventually moved to Brooklyn. He and my Grandmother were the parents of my mother who diesd about 4 years ago at 92. My grandfrather might have been the first or maybe second owner of the Peerless. I remember the theater very well. I remember seeing High Noon there when it first came out on the huge screen. The theater was huge and yes the candy stand was under the screen like many theaters in those days. There was a very large fan in the wall on the right of the Theater and there was no air coditioning back then. It was a hot room during the summer months. You enetered from the street with the “L"above and walked down a wide sort of long hallway with the movie posters in glass cases on the wall. The box office was at the end of the hallway on the righht kind of caddy cornered and the same lady who worked for my Grandfather soold tickets if I can remember and was possibly also the bookkeeper. Abe Cohen was a wonderful man and generous to the core. He use to give people who came in to the theater who were poor, money. He did very well. Now for the truth. He was run out of there by the people in the neighborhood. Mostly people who didn’t like Jews and peoploe who didn’t like white people. By the mid 60s or maybe earlier he was being attacked by people and robbed. My grandmother at the time was in a Nursing home in Flushing. He eventually closed the theater because of the neighborhood and the attacks and theft and vandalism. He then went on to spend much of the money he worked most of his life saving paying for the Nursing Home. He passed away in 1968 with little money left.So that’s the real story. The Peerless Movie Theater was Abraham Cohen. He made it what it was and the very neighborhood it was in and some of the miscreants who lived their destroyed it!

BurtD on March 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm

We lived at 210 Clinton Avenue up the street from the Theater. We moved to Long Island in 1955 when things turned bad there.

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