Memories of the Colonial Fox Theatre
What It Meant to Us Then
In the beginning, for a nickel -
It meant serials, a double feature, a cartoon, newsreels ---
It meant secretly smoking, spooning, sneaking in beer ---
It meant pickle juice, Jujubees, popcorn ---
It meant getting the bad guys with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry ---
It meant jobs –
It meant falling in love with the stars --
It meant falling in love with your date ---
It meant free dishes ---
It meant the wonderful world of imagination and dreams ---
“Pressed roses bloom,
The songs resume as once we heard them play,
Ah, Memory, the miracle of yesterday today…”
To enjoy memories of our Colonial Fox Theatre, select a decade…
Esther Sanders Marlier
Coming to movies on the weekend with friend Wynona Brusin-Bell -- lived on Lone Star and 20th – Mr. Theis had Hat Block and Clean Shop in building not basement. My brother, George, in seventh and eighth grade…rode his bike in after school and worked as shoe shine boy for Mr. Theis.
…It was our dream to save our pennies to come to the western shows. All the cowboys – Buck Jones and the other hundreds.
What a wonderful memory.
Harold Gough (late 30’s, early 40’s)
In the late 30’s, early 40’s, we were given a special movie showing on Wednesday afternoon for a deposit of five soda bottles – either Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola. At that time, we paid, I think, a 2-cent deposit on soda bottles and we were given a free showing for five bottles.
My friends and I rode our bicycles around gathering soda bottles from the road and brush and kept five for the movie and sold the rest back to the bottler for 2 cents cash.
Marjorie McEntire Crow
I believe it was 1936 (I was seven) – my older brother took me to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (it may have been The Wizard of Oz). They both had witches in them and I was really frightened by the witch.
The Orange Bowl was affectionately known by my group of friends as “The Juice Joint”. We would stop by afternoons after school and get a Pepsi and a Heath Bar. At that time, it was located to the north side of the theatre and the door opened on the street side. The popcorn machine was in there, too.
Kim Brill (1920s – 1930’s)
My grandmother and all her brothers and sisters would walk from Lone Star to come to the Saturday show for a nickel. They would look forward to it every Saturday.
Debbie Gepford (late 30’s, early 40’s)
Moko the Monkey –Pauline and Charley Lake put on a vaudeville show. Charley was very double-jointed. He would fold up in a box and Pauline would take him out…
Marie Brinkman (1930s-40s)
My mom gave me an old plate that she got from the show. What they used to do is, like promotions now at the grocery store. They’ll have plates out one week and cups out the next. Once you made your purchase you’d receive your dish. I can’t swear on it, but I think you got them free with a ticket.
I remember they used to have beauty pageants there back then, and the girls got to walk across the stage. I have a newspaper from 1934 advertising for a dance recital before the movie. Always, at the Colonial, they had double features. I would guess it was only about 35 or 40 cents to get in the movie. Sometimes in-between features they’d have Bingo on Friday nights. You could win a dollar or so. My sister who was only about 6 or 7 won one time; she went up to pick her number and there was a $5 bill. Which was like winning $100 today.
I saw all the Roy Rogers and Gene Autry movies at the Colonial. Once, we saw them advertised “Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.” We were so excited; we thought they were in a movie together. When we got there though, it was a Roy Rogers show and then a Gene Autry show. There were a lot of westerns back then. Also I remember seeing the Dolly sisters.
Back then the cowboy movies were only maybe an hour or an hour and 15 minutes long. They showed news reels and they always had a cartoon. It was global news, like WWII. Of course, everything was black and white. There was always Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and I think even the Road Runner. That was a big highlight, the whole audience would laugh. Friday nights the theatre was always full.
Mostly, we went on Tuesdays and Fridays. My dad would go in to Pittsburg to bowl and drop off us girls at the show. Then we’d walk over to the bowling alley to watch him finish up after the movie. On the way home to Arma, we’d pass the Puritan dairy. My sister and I would begin to chant “We want ice cream! We want ice cream!” Daddy would always stop and get us an ice cream cone.
The big Jones store used to be in the vacant lot to the right of the theatre now. I think there was a shoe store, called Woremasters, on the other side of the Jones store. Then across the street where the Credit Union is now, is where the Midland stood. The Midland was really a really elegant theatre, I wish you guys could have saved that one too. Today Main Street (Broadway) is nothing like it used to be back then.
Eunis Martin Young
I remember the dish give-away night. Each week would be a different piece. My aunt finally had a service for eight including the serving pieces. I now live in St. Louis and frequent antique shops and, lo and behold, there are those dishes selling at a very high price.
Town Talk Amateur Hour and Sunday matinees --- spooning in the upper rows ---
Carol June Smith
I remember serials before the movie and I looked forward to Tom Mix and Hopalong Cassidy. I loved westerns.
I remember that I only got to come to the show on Saturday night when my folks had enough money to send me. It was not often.
During World War II my mother, and my girlfriend and her mother, would go to the Colonial Fox Theatre every Thursday evening, play Bingo – eat a hamburger… and wait for our boys to come home.
Saturday matinees – 9 cents admission – this included double feature, newsreels and weekly serials such as Sky King. In later years my husband, Jack Lemon, worked here as an usher when he was in high school (the 50’s). It was a great place to be with friends and enjoy that good popcorn, Jujubees and malt balls. Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were some of my favorites.
Danced on the stage – tap – went to the movies almost every time the show changed (Friday and Saturday night dates). My brother walked from our home on Monroe and spent the afternoon watching Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.
Margie Brinkman (mid 1940s - early 1950s)
We used to always go to the Colonial while my dad was bowling in Pittsburg. We went to the Colonial because it was the “in-between theatre.” The Midland ran the expensive first rate films and the Cozy showed the movies that had already been run at the Colonial. Usually it was the cowboy movies, like Roy Rogers and the Gene Autry. We thought we were in hog heaven going there. I was definitely in love with Roy Rogers.
The first movie I can remember seeing there was probably The Wizard of Oz. I can still see Dorothy singing “Over the Rainbow” and the monkeys (which I was scared to death of!).
They would put on little shows once in awhile. Pittsburg had its beauty contestants for the American Royal there. Girls walked out on the stage in gowns and swimsuits, I’m not sure they had to do any type of talent competition.
People would go downtown and stay shopping or whatever until 5pm and then wait for the show to open. We’d find places to dance in college, to Jitterbug and such. I loved going to play Bingo at the Colonial with the little paper punch-out cards. Once I had Bingo and got to pick a prize number. I thought I was going to be in trouble because my mom told me to pick one number, but I didn’t. I picked my favorite number and that was the one with five dollars behind it.
It was a big deal when Cinemascape came in and they elongated the screen. You thought you were being surrounded by film! Before it was just like a TV set with a little square screen.
There was a guy on the North side of Broadway who sold tamales out of a cart, and we’d stop and buy some to eat on the way home to Arma.
Sharon Cizerle (1946–1954)
I spent a good deal of my childhood in the Colonial. I would sit all afternoon to watch the Gene Autry – Roy Rogers shows over and over and other shows, too, but these I member the most.
Jim Buche (1940’s/1950’s)
Bingo – electricity went out on New Year’s Eve – used candles on ramp entrance while we waited – worked for a couple of years – started here, Orange Bowl – concession under balcony, key to the curtain – met my wife of 50 years –
Mary Kay Wiley
In 1952 I was a sophomore at PHS and I went to work as un usher at the Cozy Theatre. At this time there were three movie houses in Pittsburg: the Midland, the Colonial, which was across the street, and the Cozy, which was on the west side of Broadway between 3rd and 2nd. Mr. Tom Steele was the manager of all three theatres and his office was above the Midland. The Colonial ran double features and second-run movies. The Cozy was the number three house and ran double features and B movies. The price of admission was .60, .50, .39 and .09 for kids under 12. When I left in 1957 the price was .75 for adults, .50 for students with an ID and .25 for children. A few years later when TV began to have an impact on movies, it didn’t open until 5:00. Matinees were only on Saturday and Sunday.
I later worked the concession stand at the Cozy. When it closed, I went to work in the concession stand at the Colonial. I was working there when a cinemascope screen with surround stereophonic sound was installed because it had a larger seating capacity than the Midland. The first show to open with cinemascope was The Robe. All the employees got to go to the test showing the night before it opened. I remember how impressed and awed I was. Because this was such a big production, I got excused from school the next day to work the matinee. People lined the streets to see the first viewing. Then it was packed for the evening performance.
During the summer in the Fifties, there always was a Thursday morning Kid Show. For 25 cents a kid under 12 could get in and get a box of popcorn. Since Thursday was a big shopping day for mothers, the show was packed to capacity. There always was an episode of a continuing series and a B western. Sometimes, it was a Roy Rogers or Gene Autry movie. Needless to say, it was almost pandemonium in the theatre. It kept the ushers busy trying to keep order.
I remember going to a late night Friday the 13th movie when I was around 13 or 14. It was The Mummy and he was there. I was one of the girls taken back stage with another girl and they turned out all the lights and we could hear him walking. Needless to say the other girl and I clung to each other, scared but also excited.
I later went to the Midland to work the box office and was there until it was closed and I moved to the box office at the Colonial. Mr. Steele’s office was moved to the right side of the theatre. When the Midland closed, its marquee was moved to the Colonial and the name was changed to the Fox. I worked there until 1957 when college demanded more of my time.
I was working there when Mr. Steele passed away. All the brass from the Fox theatres was at the funeral and commented about the number of young people who were present. He was a great man to work for and respected by all. All the employees stayed on and ran the theatre for about two months with the secretary, Doris Armstrong, as temporary manager. We had checkers from Fox all the time, but always came up with good reports. I’m proud of the fact that a group of young people, 16 – 22, accepted the responsibility and ran the show successfully.
Working at the show was a great experience. The pay was 45 cents an hour when I started (I remember how excited I was when they raised to .50) and one of the perks was free movies. Being right in the middle of downtown, you would see everyone. Mr. and Mrs. Steele always hosted a Christmas party for all the crew after the show closed for the evening. The food was always cooked by the wife of the custodian and it was delicious. On Saturday nights there was always a sneak preview at the Midland, usually of an upcoming movie. So there always was a crush of people around closing time (10:00) buying tickets to see the last showing of the playing movie and a free showing of a new movie.
A lot of my friends also worked at the show. Since movies were a big part of life in the Fifties, working at the show was a coveted job.
Mona Wachter (1956 to closing)
As a life-long resident of Frontenac, I attended this theatre many times. I first came with my sisters on the Frontenac bus, then came with friends through grade school, high school, college and adult life. I remember seeing Snow White (it may have been the first one I saw here). Pillow Talk was the first movie I saw on my own with friends – no sisters. I attended many movies with many friends throughout the years. I have enjoyed all movies here. Always had to have Jujubees, Milk Duds and popcorn – broke a tooth on a Milk Dud.
Lester “Bud” W. Troxel (late 40’s, 50’s)
Coming to the show was a Saturday event for kids. I remember getting in line to see Roy Rogers. The back of the line was at the alley on West 5th Street.
Can remember the ushers with their flashlights. They wouldn’t let anyone put their feet up on the chair in front of them.
I think back when Bill Bridwell was the ticket taker all of us girls younger than him thought he was really cool.
We would come on Saturday for the matinee in the early 50’s. We couldn’t miss a Saturday. Then in the late 50’s the girls would all come together and meet the boys and we would all stay for the late show that got out about midnight, then one of the parents would have to come pick us up and take us home. Good memories.
First movies I completely remember seeing were Calamity Jane with Doris Day and Lone Ranger and The Lost City of Gold with Clayton Moore. This was the coolest place in Pittsburg. My sister and I would walk to town from 8th Street and Tucker and watch movies all day long, then go next door to Crowell’s and eat. Wonderful times and smells.
Connie Kline (1957 to closing)
I saw my first movie, Toby Tyler Joins the Circus in the theatre in approximately 1957.
I have wonderful memories that will remain with me forever as I watched excellent movies in the theatre. I remember the good times with childhood friends as we sat in those seats.
I remember walking with a group of friends from 4th and Rouse to town in the summer to watch the weekly matinee offered through the elementary schools.
New Year’s Day was just as special in our family as Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. My mother and my aunts would take turns hosting the holiday dinner and, always, on New Year’s Day, one aunt would take the children to “the show” in Pittsburg when dinner was over. I do not remember what it was then called. I just knew that we were going to “the show” and that it was on the west side of Broadway.
That is where and when I fell madly in love with James Mason – “The Man that Got Away” – achingly sung by Judy Garland in A Star is Born. I’ve never quite recovered from that first “love affair”.
And who could forget Give My Regards to Broadway? Ah, the stuff of dreams.
Come back, lovely “show”. Like James Mason, you got away. Come back, with all of your memories intact.
They played westerns on Saturdays. They had a balcony and there were bathrooms upstairs. They had old sinks and white tiles. They had a ticket booth outside where you had to pay for the tickets and you could get pop and other stuff for $1.00. They played children’s plays. They used to have live performances. They had a big screen and they had a velvet rope…the guys had red button suits on.
I remember coming to double feature movies. Back then, we came in anytime during either of the double features, stayed till it was all shown back to when we came in. Also, I worked at all three theatres. If working at the Cozy after we closed the box office, policeman Joe Farley, would come and walk us to the Midland because we were carrying the money bag.
Leigh Walters (1969 or 1970)
My friends and I came to see Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind. I loved Clark Gable. There was a Clark Gable cardboard poster. So for a surprise my dad, B. L. Mahar, came and got the poster, made an oak frame for it and I still have it.
Double good memory of my dad and The Fox.
Darlene (Ellis) Schneider (1959 – 1961)
I worked as a cashier at the Cozy Theatre after high school and while I was going to college.
During the late 40’s and early 50’s, Saturday morning was a favorite time at the Colonial – cowboy serial movies and cartoons.
The Midland was also a grand theatre.
Susan and Babs Tims
Roosevelt Jr. High sat on left side -- Lakeside Jr. High sat on right side.
Mom (Elaine Sauer) used to load up the Ford Galaxy station wagon with my family of six kids and some neighbor kids and drive to the Fox Theatre every week or two. We loved coming here. I remember the New Year’s Eve parties where they showed three or four movies until late at night. The theatre was packed. I brought my dates here as I went through high school. All my memories of the theatre were excellent. I also remember the film of Led Zeppelin’s song The Song Remains the Same and of the Who’s film Tommy (the pinball wizard). I even remember the X-rated pornography that was shown near the end of the theatre’s days. I remember people smoking in the theatre and it only cost about $1.75 for tickets. We would always shop in Woolworth’s ,,, and get drinks at Crowell’s Drug Store during our road trips to the Fox.
Patty (Laing) Nicholas
I went to the Fox all summer long with a very inexpensive pass for children. It was a great place for kids to spend the summer.
At a Saturday afternoon matinee I received my “first kiss” – his name was Tony and it took me by surprise. It was pretty cool but I think it left me in shock – I don’t remember the movie. I remember seeing all the Beatles movies here at the Fox and also the James Bond movies.
Sandra Hamann (1960’s / 1970’s)
Bringing my sisters for many, many matinees – remember seeing Grease here.
I remember coming here as a child – 5th – 6th grade. On Saturday matinee, I could afford to get a frozen pickle and a small cup of pickle juice. Pickle juice was a nickel. Also recall seeing a local band on stage. Fun times – parents let us come without them because it was a different time. Thanks so much for your efforts.
Used to buy summer movies for my children for $1.00 each for ten movies on Saturday, I think. I even bought a pass for myself.
My brother, Rick Casey, and I bought summer movie tickets from school and watched movies each week all summer. It was something that we looked forward to each week. Our favorite place to sit was the front row.
I became a believer in Christ on January 10, 1975 at a single showing of the Billy Graham film, Time to Run, which was sponsored by area ministers and other Christians. I haven’t been able to find an ad in the old newspaper, but Pastor Don Talent of Victory Life Center was one of the sponsors of the event. I will never forget that night.
Ice machine was right inside the basement door on the north wall. I carried buckets to the concession stand.
The very first movie theater I ever attended was the Pittsburg Fox. My mother brought me and six of my friends and we were amazed! I still remember where we sat, ordering from the concession stand, the seats (even the restrooms). My friends and I returned often always grabbing the seats in the balcony.
Superman and Star Wars are real touchstone memories in my life…and I experienced them both at the Fox. I was in college at PSU at the time.
I remember sneaking beer into the theater many Saturday nights. Once, at a really quiet moment, someone dropped a bottle cap and you could hear it clinking really loud all the way down to the stage. Talk about paranoid – we were sure we would get caught. But it didn’t stop us the next Saturday night. Those were the good ole days.
First time ever to walk in theater and saw Oh, God with George Burns.
Later on in early to mid-80’s I was employed by Dickinson Theaters myself and my parents were some of the last people to work in the Fox before its closing.
I was about 17 years old and about 6 ½ months pregnant and I went to the Fox Theater with my mom, Aunt Norma and Aunt Karen to watch Carrie. I remember the end of the movie scared me so much I jumped from my chair past my two aunts and landed in my mom’s lap.
My cousin brought me to see Liza Minelli in Cabaret. It was an awesome experience because of the sound system as well as the “Big Screen”.
I had been to the Fox many times since and was sad to see it close down in 1985. Was encouraged when they were considering renewing her earlier however that went by the wayside.
Thank you for taking up the torch and it would be great to see her back to her glory days.
My first job was at the Fox Theatre. I was a sophomore in high school. My older brother Mark was working there and had begun training to take over the projectionist job. My job was as usher and ticket taker. Ushers also helped out the concession girls getting ice from downstairs in the basement and cups and napkins and other things. We had to make our rounds every 15 minutes with a flashlight and tell patrons to keep their feet off the seats. Once in awhile I helped my brother Mark change the marquee sign on the last night of the movie.
I remember we showed double features. One main feature and some other film considered a “B” movie. I remember a customer named Mary who would come every Sunday. She said she used to play organ for the silent movies and loved the movie culture.
I left in the summer of 1976. Every one of my brothers (Mark, Tim, Greg) worked at the theatre. After graduating from college, I began teaching and had summers off. I returned to The Fox to take a part-time job as a projectionist. I met my future wife there. She was in concessions, but had put in her two weeks notice. We later met up, started dating and married a year later. As a projectionist I remember Jim, the manager, would come up to the projection booth and play chess with me during the running of the movie.
My parents, Janet and Jim Steele, took my friend Dawn DeMott and I to see the movie Halloween. I remember Dawn and I hiding under our jackets, peeking out every once in awhile to see what WAS going on. At the time, I was so scared! It felt like the theatre was so big and dark.
I also remember my parents taking me to see the movie, The Champ. After the tear-jerking end, my dad had to carry me out since I was bawling uncontrollably. People kept asking my dad if I was okay.
Our friend, Russ Cardin (now deceased) worked for the rivals (Dickenson Theaters) but, out of professional courtesy, the lady who managed The Fox let us in free! Don’t remember the movie – do remember that some of the kids in the balcony dumped a whole box of buttered popcorn on us – Russ jumped up so fast to see who they were and tripped and fell on his face! We all had a good time.
As a child my grandparents cleaned The Fox and The Cinema. I always came. Mostly played but I did help clean every night. One night I went to the front seat and fell asleep. My grandma accidentally left me. When she got home she realized I wasn’t in the car. They had to come back and get me.
Brother, Tim Campbell, was the assistant manager and my two sisters, Rhonda and Glenda Campbell, worked at the snack bar about the same time.
Roger L. Cunningham (late 1950’s through 1985)
I watched The Greatest Show on Earth, Old Yeller, The Ten Commandments.
My mom and dad sent me and my brother to the show one day so they could get some work done around the house. We went to the show and had a great time. When we walked home we found out that my dad had fallen off the ladder and didn’t get any work done after all. I love The Fox.
The first time my dad took me and my sister, Marcy, to the BIG movie was at The Fox Theatre. The move was Smokey and the Bandit! It was a very special time and moment in my life. Thanks for saving The Fox. I’m sure many people will thank you, also. A part of history!
I remember the summer movies on Wednesday afternoons. All the kids would walk to the Piggly Wiggly and buy candy and then walk on down to the show. It would be full of yelling kids. At the end of the movie everyone would clap if it was a good movie.
When there was a scary movie a bunch of us would walk to the show and walk home in the dark. It could get really spooky!
In the shoe shine shop we climbed up onto theater seats for a 10 cent shine.
I think Roy Muse invented the corn dog in the “Orange Bowl”.
This is where I first saw Jaws.
Segregation, dating couples went to sit in the balcony, workers wore uniforms, we came to the theater on one side of entry and exited on the opposite side, it seems like the ladies lounge was large.
Office used to be Harry’s Hat Shop owned by Harry Condos. Ernest was the shoe shiner.
Ernest and his friends used to sneak in. One would run in and get the ticket taker to chase him and the rest would sneak in the other direction OR one would pay, go in and open the back door and the rest would sneak in.
Also, in the old office building, there used to be a convenient store / concession stand type place.
The day I came to see Bonnie and Clyde with my parents – 12 years old and Mom was complaining about the movie being too nasty.
Alma Ingle Carpino
There were two full movies plus a cartoon. The cost was no more that 15 cents.