|About 1954 me and my Grandma |
ready to go to the movies
Baba which I called her all my life, from the Polish word for Grandmother, made her money for our day out and about by playing the numbers at the local bookie who took bets at the butcher shop. She was quite lucky most times and kept her stash for our treats, saying that was for us to have fun. I spent lots of my time at their house and each morning when I awoke she'd ask me about my dreams and then get a small black book from the cupboard drawer. I learned years later from her that was her Dream Book which translated the subject of dreams into numbers and those were the bets she placed, always winning when she played Patty's dreams. How I wish I knew what became of that book, imagine if today I could use it for the lottery.
I learned that the reason we could afford two movies was we frequently got in free at the Liberty where her brother Bill worked as a projectionist, when movies came on the big reels. I have shared photos of Bill before, here's a newspaper clipping she saved of the man at work. Notice the name Walter Austin, somehow Bill came from Walter and he'd changed the Polish Ostroski aka Ostrowski to Austin, generating much fuss and disdain from his sisters. But today's theater theme showed photos of the buildings and I had to dig and search to find any photographs of the big time days in New Kensington when we had the Liberty, the Dattola, the Circle and the Ritz theaters. I was amazed to find a Library of Congress photo of our own old Liberty theater which was demolished. These movie theaters were grand seating from 700 to 1000 with more balcony seating, plush carpets, draperies, gilded to the max. Wish I had photos of the insides, they sure don't make 'em like that anymore. Todays movie theaters use a sardine pack seating system, superior technology does not make up for lack of grandeur and class.
|Downstairs where I watch movies today|
Back of my recliner looking toward the big screen
A Westmoreland county historical site shows that: On May 2, 1921, the first of the new theaters, the Liberty Theater (demolished 1996) opened on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street and the Ritz Theater (958 Fifth Avenue) opened the next year.
|The Liberty courtesy of the Library of Congress|
|Dowtown Fifth Avenue as it looked when we walked to the movies|
The old Liberty is on the left
|From a historic website the Dattola theater|
|The Dattola movie Theater on the other end of Fifth Avenue|
Photo from 1969 coverage in the Valley Dispatch,
taken sometime in the 1960's.
|The newspaper article tells the sad tale of the Dattola.|