Mar 8, 2017

Flash From Past

Occasionally, some of the older boys in Lehigh Parkway would get saddled with taking me along to a Saturday matinee in downtown Allentown. We would get the trolley, in later years a bus, from in front of the basement church on Jefferson Street. It would take that congregation many years to afford completing the church building there today. The trolley or bus would go across the 8th Street Bridge, which was built to accommodate the trolleys operated by Lehigh Valley Transit Company. Downtown then sported no less than five movie theaters at any one time. Particularly matinee friendly was the Midway, in the 600 Block of Hamilton. Three cartoons and episode or two of Flash Gordon entertained our entourage, which ranged in age from five to eleven years old. We younger kids, although delighted by the likes of Bugs Bunny, were confused how the Clay People would emerge from the walls in the caves on Mars to capture Captain Gordon, but our chaperones couldn't wait till the next week to learn Flash's fate. Next on the itinerary was usually a banana split at Woolworth's. Hamilton Street had three 5 and 10's, with a million things for boys to marvel at. The price of the sundae was a game of chance, with the customer picking a balloon. Inside the balloon was your price, anywhere from a penny to the full price of fifty cents. The store had a full selection of Allentown souvenirs. Pictures of West Park on a plate, the Center Square Monument on a glass, pennants to hang on your wall, and picture postcards of all the attractions. Hamilton Street was mobbed, and even the side streets were crowded with busy stores. Taking younger kids along was a responsibility for the older brothers, the streets and stores were crowded, but predators were limited to the Clay People on the silver screen.

reprinted from April of 2014


doug_b said...

I remember when I was about 10 (1959) we used to go to the Colonial & Earl a lot. Saturday they had cartoons and 'monster movies' - usually caused by radiation - giant crabs - etc. The place we packed with boys.

Yeah, the five and dime's had sodas, pizza by the slice. Hess's had a snack bar and you could get a softserve cone. Once in a while we would venture up to Dolly Madison - they had the best hot fudge.

Jamie Kelton said...

I was an Upper Story girl ;)
I liked Hess's better than Leh's and Zollingers

Used to go to the Capri, the Colonial and Eric. The Rialto was a porno place. Asked my mom about the Midway, she said that was across Hamilton from Zollingers, but it burned down ?

michael molovinsky said...

jamie@12:26, the rialto was in the 900 block of hamilton, and with the colonial, were the premiere theaters. to my knowledge it was never a porno place

TRENT HALL said...

Back in the day, the studios owned the theater chains, and so,for the most part, the premier theaters carried the first run films of their respective studio parent. By Supreme Court decision in 1947 this was ruled an anti-trust violation, and hence all theaters could now bid to run films from whichever distributor they wanted, but, in practice, most continued to favor the distribution chains they used before, because of the bungling discounts afforded for taking a mix of A & B pictures.
Hence, the Boyd ran all the first run A pictures of 20th Century Fox; the Midway the first run A pictures of Universal, the Rialto & the Colonial the first run A pictures of MGM, and the Earle the first run pictures of Warner Brothers. The 19th Street Theater got most of the United Artists pictures. All theaters pretty much showed Paramount & Columbia pictures, as they had the weaker distribution system in the Valley.
In those days, the studios cranked out 200 pictures a year (both A & B) and so a film only ran for about about two weeks for the first run in the theater; hence you could easily see a different movie each Saturday afternoon. Today the studios only make about 30 to 40 pictures a year, and it is not uncommon for a feature to play in the multi-plex theaters for 4 weeks.