A few months back, we came upon a photograph, taken on May 6, 1926, showing the nearly completed Alameda Theater, located at NE 30th and Alberta. Have a good look at it and soak up the details, and then look at an image from today.
Remarkably, most of the original exterior is still intact. The corner entry and box office; the two prominent display cases that frame the opening; the ornamental trim along the building’s parapet; the box office just inside the entry portico; the spider web window and Georgian doorway just left of the theater entry which opens into a steep stairwell to the second floor; even the store fronts to the left of the main entry (the transom windows are still operational).
You can’t see it in the earlier photo, but the original Mediterranean style roof tiles are still in place. The marquee was removed some years back, but a 1926 time traveler would definitely recognize the building today, at least on the outside (they might ask about all those antennas on the roof). On a recent visit, the building was locked so we didn’t have a chance to look around inside.
The observant reader will also note the streetcar tracks making a sweeping left turn from Northeast 30th to Alberta Street eastbound…the Alberta Line, which operated from 1903 to 1949.
Here’s a snapshot of its history:
From 1927-1937, it operated as the Alameda Theater (even though it is a few blocks north of the Alameda Park subdivision proper).
From 1937-1964 it was simply known as the 30th Avenue Cinema.
From 1964-1969 it went by the catchy name of “Cine 30.”
From 1969 until it closed for good as a theater in 1978, it went back to its earlier name: Alameda Theater.
Since 1978, the building has served as the home of the Macedonia Church of God, and its current role as home to the Victory Outreach Church.
Along the way, trips to the movies entertained generations of our neighbors, and provided some enduring memories, particularly for a couple of brothers who grew up here in the neighborhood in the 1950s. Steve and Marshall Turner talk about the theater in the same breath as Hunderups, the other neighborhood hang out at NE 30th and Prescott (see the earlier post about Hunderups). We’ve been in touch with Steve and Marshall, and they’ve shared these memories of a misspent youth:
We have fond memories of the 30th Ave. Theater. It was a place where kids could go with their friends and act like kids and generally misbehave without too much chance of parental repercussion.
We looked forward to the Saturday matinees which cost $0.25 cents as I recall. We would usually make a stop at Hunderup’s Drug Store on the way to “buy” candy because it was cheaper to charge it all to our account at Hunderup’s than to actually pay for it at the theater.
Matinees usually consisted of a cartoon such as Tom & Jerry, Woody Woodpecker, Porky Pig, Casper the Ghost, or Daffy Duck. Cartoons were followed by a News Reel and a short serial such as Flash Gordon, The Rocket Man, The Three Stooges, Spin & Marty, or Abbot & Costello.
The main features always seemed to be a Sci-Fi film such as House on Haunted Hill starring Vincent Price, It Came From Beneath the Sea; Them (a movie about ants that became gigantic through atomic radiation); The Attack of The 50 Foot Woman; The Day The Earth Stood Still; It Came From Outer Space; Forbidden Planet; The Blob War of The Worlds; This Island Earth; and Monster on The Campus, starring Arthur Franz, just to name a few.
Sometimes management would feature a local personality to entertain the kids. We remember seeing Mr. Moon and Addie Bobkins too.
The manager would sometimes get up on stage before the movie started and remind us to be on our best behavior. But, of course, as soon as the lights were dimmed 5,000 pieces of candy would be flying through the air. Experienced movie viewers would never sit directly below the balcony as they were easy targets for “spilled” soft drinks and wads of chewed up juicy fruits, dots, or jujubes. If we had to sit on the main level it was always to the rear so as to not be in the line of fire from the viewers above.
The screen itself was even a target and since we didn’t like the black colored dots very well these made good ammunition. Every once in a while you could hear a loud “whump” against the screen. Mr. Moon himself took a black dot in the temple. Once in a while we took pea shooters or squirt guns with us if we really felt mischievous.
In the movie Monster on the Campus, an actor who resembled Ralph Wampler, our Alameda Grade School Principal at the time, got killed. One of the neighbor kids yelled out “hey, they just killed “Wampie,” which got all the Alameda kids laughing and shouting.
Once the movie was over it was a good idea to hustle out of the balcony quickly to avoid being recognized by one of our targets below. We would then stop by the Blue Bird Ice Cream shop next door to buy an ice cream cone with the money we saved by charging our candy at Hunderup’s.
One of the last movies they showed was the Beatles’ film A Hard Days Night, but we didn’t see it.
Once the church is done with the building, somebody should buy this place, restore it, and start showing old monster movies. But they should consider shutting down the balcony.
What do you remember about the old 30th Avenue Theater?